Monday, November 14, 2016

The husband's guide to having a baby

I want to preface this post by saying that I am in no way an expert, even remotely, on the subject of labour, delivery, and babies. I'm more like the person who shines the experts shoes and gets the expert coffee, who most of the time has not a freaking clue what's going on but sometimes offers advice here and there.  

I'm still pretty new at this whole parenting thing. But I'm far enough removed from the newborn phase of it all that I feel like I have a healthy hindsight as to what worked for us (and what absolutely did not) when we were in the thick of things those first few weeks. My husband still looks back on those early weeks and says "that was hell," but I'm starting to look back fondly and think "that wasn't so bad." I'm surprising myself because I'm already thinking about baby #2 - doesn't nature work in mysterious and seriously effed up ways?

The other night I was talking to a friend who is about to become a dad. I asked him how he's feeling about it and his answer was so familiar and brought back so many memories from those early weeks. He said he is excited, but still feels disconnected. "I really have no connection to the baby yet," he said. "I'm sure when he comes that will change." I couldn't help notice a brief flash of fear in his eyes. 

I remember Damien feeling the exact same way. I could sit there for hours with my hands on my belly as Aurora kicked and twirled and rolled inside me. I would call Damien over ("BABE! HURRY! THE BABY'S KICKING LIKE CRAZY!"). Inevitably, as soon as he would put his hands on my belly, the movement would stop. I would get mad (ok, I can admit now that it was completely irrational) when he wouldn't want to sit beside me and wait...and wait...and wait for the next kick. "You're SO impatient!" I would huff. "Do you even care?! Do you even want this baby? Do you even love me?!" (Hi, hormones!)

This brings me to the first on my list of new dad tips: 

1. It's ok if you don't connect with the baby right away. 
Sorry Dads, but as far as baby's needs go in those early weeks, it's all mama's boobs, all the time. Of course my husband was so excited when Aurora was born, he held her, he cuddled her, he changed her, and he fed her when he could. She'll be seven months old in a couple of days, and their bond is so much stronger. He still doesn't miss the 'newborn phase,' in fact, he says "I wish babies came out this size, and at this stage" (while a look of sheer terror washes over my face). I think a big part of that is that a lot of dads feel completely useless for the first few weeks. Now, he is able to do so much more with her including play, throw her up in the air, make her laugh. He's now her favourite person in the world (I guess she forgot about all those late night breast milk extravaganzas). It's totally understandable if you don't feel an immediate connection with the tiny, purple, pooping, crying bundle that just shot out of your wife's lady bits and left her a sore, emotional mess. It will come. In those early days, you may not be able to breastfeed, but you can:

2. Do everything else.
This is one thing that Damien killed at during the first few days and weeks that Rory graced our household with her angelic presence. I quickly discovered that for me, breastfeeding wasn't going to be the natural, built-in, carefree journey that I had anticipated (more on that here). When 98.5% of your time is spent trying to get a good latch, making sure your baby's had enough, burping, and then cleaning up the subsequent vomit, there's little time (1.5% of the time, to be exact) to do anything else. That's where Dame came in. He cooked the meals. He cleaned. He made sure the house was presentable for our visitors. He brought me water, toast, coffee, oatmeal, hand cream, the remote, my inflatable bum donut, the receiving blanket. He went to the store and bought nipple cream, more breast pads, breast pump parts, bibs (we had NO idea how many bibs we would go through in a day!), energy bars (complete breastfeeding lifesavers), and everything else I needed. He was a rock star, even though he was just as exhausted as I was. Husbands, boyfriends, partners, lend me your ears. If you take any piece of advice, do the above. Your wife/girlfriend/partner will love you forever (even when she's yelling at you for your future stupid comments). Which is where my next point comes in: 

3. Learn what NOT to say. 
Some of these things Damien didn't say, but in speaking with friends who had babies, these were things some of their husbands did say. Some of these things Damien did say, but only once. My response to all of these is always "ARE YOU F*&CKING KIDDING ME!?!?!?"
Stay away from: "What did you do all day?" husband asks innocently as he strolls through the door. I'm sitting down, the TV is on but I'm more or less staring into space after having just gotten Aurora to sleep after the most recent fussy period. "Is your baby content, fed, clean, dressed, and more importantly ALIVE?" I answer with fire in my eyes. That question never came up again.
Safe alternative: "How was your day? Can I get you anything? You look tired. Why don't you go take a bath while I take over the baby duties." 
Stay away from: "You didn't have time to (do the laundry/vaccum/go to the grocery store/take a shower) today?" This is a bad one. Just don't say it. Just don't.  
Safe alternative: "Relax while I (do the laundry/vaccum/go to the grocery store/run you a hot bath.)"  
Stay away from: "Why are you crying...again?" Men will never, ever in a million years understand the emotions and hormones that come with carrying a baby inside you for 9 months and then suddenly giving birth and that baby is out in the world and you can't comfort her anymore and she's crying and you have no idea why and you haven't slept in two days and she's not latching and your milk isn't in yet and people are sending such nice gifts and people want to visit and you feel like crap and, oh, one more thing HORMONES. Man friends, if your wife sobs uncontrollably the first few days, it's totally normal. It will pass. Promise!
Safe alternative: "It's ok. It will be ok." (Because it really will). 

4. Be the best damn support system she's ever had. 
From the moment she got pregnant, you were a team. Remember when you held her hair while the puked during those early months? (In my case it was Damien standing over me and cheering because he was just SO damn excited that I was pregnant. Now it's cute. Then it wasn't.) Through pregnancy, labour and delivery you were there, encouraging, telling her she was rocking this, wiping her brow, bringing her ice chips. At no time is the support person more important, however, than after the baby comes. When she feels like she has no freaking clue what she's doing, she needs you to tell her she's doing an awesome job. She needs to hear that she is an amazing mom. When she's frustrated with breastfeeding and feeling like a dairy cow, tell her she's rocking that breast pump. When she's overwhelmed and exhausted, tell her a joke. One little joke and a shared laugh can change her whole night. You're in this together now. It's your time to shine, coach!

5. Hold on to the fact that your new 'normal' is just around the corner.  
Around the three month mark was when our household started to feel normal again. Things settled into place, we all got into a routine, we had gotten to know each other, and we were all pretty comfortable with our new living situation. In the first few weeks, LOTS of different people told us that it would get easier, and they were right. And so, I'm passing that wisdom along to you. Now, seven months into the game, it's so much easier, we're so comfortable, and it's absolutely the most fun I've ever had.  

You got this, soon-to-be Dads. And we've got your backs, just in case you need a little help now and then. But I have a feeling you're going to be just fine. 


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Internet: meet Biller

Breaking news from the lake: Biller has the Internet.

It's easy to forget how foreign the concept of the Internet is to someone who has never been on it, who didn't grow up with it, and who had to receive written instructions for checking his answering machine. 

We've been trying to get my Dad online for years - telling him about the amazing things he can see and do online, trying to explain to him that an Internet search can yield him answers to questions in seconds. This is a man who, when my sister and I would ask a question (it could be any question, like 'what kind of bird is that at the bird feeder?') would march us downstairs to the 'library', point to the collection of encyclopedias, and say 'find the answer.' So not easy to get him to wrap his head around a search that took seconds and provided thousands of answers.  

This fall, all the stars aligned - my sister moved overseas, he had a second-hand laptop, and I think generally his curiosity finally got the best of him. We went into the store and set him up with the Internet. I've been trying to show him the ways of the web, and wanted everyone to share in the hilarity (I'm a little hesitant now that he can read this website, but I don't think he'll mind).  

Here are a few 'Biller-isms' from early on in our online journey.  

On signing up for the Internet:  
Biller, to sales clerk: "So, what does this include?"  
Sales clerk, slightly confused: "What do you mean?"  
Biller: "Does it include Google? Does it include Facebook? Not that I want my own Facebook, I'm just going to go on my daughter's."  
Me: "Wonderful."  

On money management: 
Sales clerk: "You can set it up with your bank, or it can come automatically off your Visa."  
Biller, super proud: "Don't have a credit card, never have, never will!"  
Sales clerk: "Really?! Wow. That's really impressive!" 
Other sales clerk, overhearing: "That's amazing! Good for you."  
Biller looks at me, smiles and nods as if to say "told you so!"  
Me: "Jesus."  

On technological terms:  
Me: "You only have a certain amount of gigabytes you can use each month. Things like watching movies and Skyping with Gigi take more gigabytes. But don't worry, you'll probably never go over."  
Biller: "So if I leave the computer running but just close the top, am I using gigabytes?" 
Me: "No, you're only using gigabytes if you're..." 
Him, cutting me off: "Biting a gig. HA HA HA HA HA!" 
Me: "Jesus." 

On getting his contact info out there: 
B: "Ok, so how are people going to know my number?"  
Me: "Umm, what do you mean?"  
B: "Like, people are going to want to text me now, right?"  
Me: "Nope, you'll have an email address that you'll give to people. We can set that up after. So once people have your email address they can email you."  
B: "Ok so how are people going to know my email address?" 
Me: "Jesus."  

On online shopping (without a credit card, mind you)
B: "So, I just want to make sure that I'm not going to do something wrong and break the computer."  
Me: "You can't do anything wrong. The only way you can break the computer is if you take a hammer and smash it."  
B: "I just don't want to click on something and order something accidentally."  
Me: "Ok, so you don't have a credit card and as long as you never give out your personal information you'll be ok."  
B: "Ok, I just don't want to order up a bunch of hookers or something."  
Me: "Jesus." 

On pop-ups:  
B, browsing the internet, suddenly closes all windows and looks terrified: "Something happened."  
Me: "What?"  
B: "I don't know, something bad. Something really bad."  
Me: "Ok, that's ok, it was just a pop-up." I notice he is shutting down the computer. "What are you doing?"  
B: "I'm getting out of here!"  

On email etiquette:  
B, sending his first email to my husband, his son-in-law: "Can I write f&*k you?"  
Me: "I mean, you can if you want...."  
B: "They're not going to charge me or anything?"  
Me: "Who? Who would charge you for swearing in an email?"  
B, seemingly frustrated with my ridicule: "I DON'T KNOW! THE INTERNET POLICE?!"  

These are just few of the comments I wrote down. And I only started writing things down near the end of the introductory weekend. 

He's actually a pretty good student - except for the fact that he kept giggling every time I said the word "mouse" and the fact that all he wanted to do was look at moose videos on YouTube (ok, I'll admit I liked that part too).  

Get ready world! Biller's on the net, biting gigs, not shopping online, potentially creeping my Facebook page, and sending offensive emails.  

You're welcome. 



Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dear Aurora: You're six months old

Dear Aurora,

You're six months old. What an amazing six months it's been.  
When you were first born, EVERYONE said "enjoy every moment - it goes by so fast." Back in those early days of uncertainty, (what seemed like) constant crying, and not knowing how we were going to get through, I would do an internal eye-roll every time someone said this. I would think "I wish she was older, I wish she was stronger, I can't wait for this newborn stage to be over.

Now, only six months later, I can see exactly what those wise people were talking about. I find myself longing for those newborn snuggles, the weight of you asleep on my chest, even for the feeling of you nestled into me while I nursed you. I can't believe you've already been here for a half a year. It's truly gone by in the blink of an eye. Rory, I'm now really trying to take that advice - I'm trying to enjoy not only every minute, but every second with you.  

Over the past couple of months, your dad and I have marveled at how your personality is developing. You're happiest in the morning or after your naps when you spot us walking into your room. Your smile is so contagious that sometimes your dad, Grandpa, Nona and Papa and I all scramble to be the ones to go in and get you when you first wake up.  

You are the most easygoing baby. You barely ever cry, you go down for your naps and for bedtime like a dream, you sleep about 12 hours every night (insert wood knock here). Our friends Darcy and Trish (and your buddy baby Ari) babysat you one night while your dad and I were at a wedding, and they asked us if you are always this easy. We had to admit (ok, brag) that yes, you are. You are already making us so proud, my girl.

Over the summer, you continued your adventures traveling with Mom and Dad. We went to Ottawa to visit Auntie Dom and Uncle Dave. Last month, we traveled to Hanover, and then Toronto. You met all of your Grandma Brenda's family and they just fell in love with you. Seeing the smile on your Great Grandma Weber's face as she kissed your cheeks over and over again and cuddled you was so special. You were the star of the show and once again, and again, you made us so proud by being your easygoing self. We even took a ferry on our adventure - the roughest ferry ride any of us had even taken. You were a gem the whole time - entertaining all of the green passengers with your smiles, laughing, and cooing.

This month, we said goodbye to Auntie Gigi as she left for her new adventure in London, England. I promise you that even though your Auntie is far away, we will do everything we can to make sure that you don't feel the distance between you. Auntie Gigi jokes that when you grow up, you will be a world traveler just like her. I cringe jokingly, but in reality, I want you to see all of the wonders that make up this world.  


Little Rory girl, the past six months have been such a crazy adventure with you. Some parts of my life are the same, yet things feel completely different now that you're here. I used to sleep like a rock at night - and now I find myself lying awake (even when you're sleeping) and thinking, worrying, contemplating everything under the sun. I think about whether you're too hot or too cold, whether your tummy is bothering you, how fast you're growing, whether I'm going to have to buy you new clothes soon, what the next 20 years will hold, what tomorrow will hold. 

I used to care more what people thought - now, as long as you're happy and healthy, I really don't care in the least. The other day, I was in the grocery store, trying to hurry, when I accidentally banged the shopping cart going around a corner. A lady nearby looked, and very loudly 'tsk'ed in our direction. I looked down at you and you were smiling. The lady's dirty look and judgement  evaporated, just like that, as soon as I saw your smile. The little dramas don't matter anymore. It's hard to be anything but grateful when I look my happy, healthy little Rory. 


Sometimes, before bed, we read a book called "I'd know you anywhere, my love." A story about how a mama will always know her baby better than anyone else. Sometimes, I feel like you have given me a superpower. I now know your facial expressions, I know when you're about to make strange, when you're about to cry, when you're about to vomit all over yourself, and me, and anything within a five foot radius. When you're down for your nap and you wake up, I seem to somehow know when you're going to go back to sleep and when you're up for good. The connection we share is sometimes unbelievable to me. I can't explain it, except to say that I am your mama and you are my baby. It is the sort of magic that all of the storybooks talk about but that you don't really believe until it happens to you. 

Aurora, you've given me an amazing gift. You made me your mama. You had faith, in those early weeks, that I could do it. Every day, our bond grows stronger and stronger and I love you more and more (how is that even possible?).

You've given me confidence, you've given me strength, you've given me the chance to raise you, teach you, and guide you.

You've made me feel like the luckiest mama on earth. 

Thank you, my little love, for this awesome gift. Happy half-birthday.  


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bon voyage

Growing up, my sister Gillian (now affectionately known as Gigi to her friends and family) was always the tougher, more stubborn, straighter shooting sibling. This is the kid who would fall down, scrape her knee, and proceed to beat on the sidewalk and call it names. The kid who once looked across a room full of people at my parents Christmas party, pointed at one of their house guests, and proclaimed "I don't like dat man." Her wild curls and mischievous smile only added to her carefree personality. I, on the other hand, was the gentler, worried, older sister (my family nicknamed me Memere at a very young age).  

Despite our differences, Gigi and I were always, and still are, the best of friends. No one makes me laugh like my sister, and when we're together, it's like we speak our own language. Once, at a party, someone made a comment that we just sat in the corner the whole time, laughing at our own jokes. We compared ourselves to the two old men from the Muppets and laughed even harder. 

Over the past few years, our lives have taken different paths. I veered off on the traditional path - got married, bought a house, got a yellow lab and had a baby. Gigi followed a more unconventional path - living in Toronto, establishing a wonderful group of friends, working hard, zooming around the city on her bicycle, and being the go-to girl for the trendiest restaurants and shopping spots. Our lives were pretty different, but we always found time (usually a good hour a couple of times a week) to catch each other up on what was going on.  

Last winter, just after Christmas, Gigi announced that she was moving to London, England. This was followed by many questions from my dad and I, the most prominent one being WHY? Why do you want to move there? What are you going to do there? It's SO far away! When will we ever see you? Are you really going to go? Deep down, we knew the answers to all of these questions. Gigi was going because she wanted adventure. She wanted to explore the world. She was determined to get a job, and that way she could travel Europe and come home as often as she wanted.

Deep down, although we hoped (for selfish reasons) that she would change her mind, my dad and I both knew that our determined, stubborn, little Gigi was going to England. Deep down, we also both understood why, and we knew we had to be supportive about her move. If you know Gigi, you know that trying to convince her not to do something will only piss her right off - and make her want to do it even more. But goddamn it - we're going to miss her. See, our little clan is pretty tight - we do best together. 

And so tonight, Gigi will board a plane that will take her to her new adventure across the Atlantic. She's done her homework. Her work visa is intact. She has a great job waiting for her. She's already established a few contacts in London. I'm not worried about her in the least. Frankly I'm more worried about me, how I'll survive knowing a piece of my heart is so far away. But I'll be ok.We'll have FaceTime and Skype and I'll be waiting anxiously to hear about all of her adventures across the pond. I'm so excited for her.

Now, there are no more questions, no more words, except a few important ones.

Good luck.
We love you.  
We'll miss you.  
We'll see you soon.  

Go get 'em, Gigi.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Annie's woodland baby shower

In just a little over a month, my friend Annie is having a baby boy. 

I'm so happy that I get to be there for her while she goes through the beautiful and terrifying experience that is having a baby. In the weeks following Aurora's birth, I leaned heavily on other moms who had recently given birth, and they were quite honestly saviors in those early days. I'm looking forward to being that person for my childhood friend.  

 Since Annie and Chris already know they are having a boy, and their nursery is a cabin/woodland theme, the shower also featured a woodland theme. I scoured Pinterest for a few hours days and tried to do justice to my vision, keeping in mind the beautiful shower that Annie threw for me just a few months ago.  


The shower ended up being catered and I'm so glad for that, because, let's face it - as much as I try and be the perfect Pinterest crafter, there's only so much you can do when you have a four month-old and also when you're not a millionaire. The finger foods were from D!Chef and they were delicious (they were also entirely gluten free as Annie has a gluten allergy). They were elegant, looked pretty, and tasted delicious and I would recommend D!Chef to anyone who's planning an event. 

I did decide to take on the cake (gluten free again) and "S'more bites" (cute and popular with the kids but more for looks and theme than flavour if I'm being completely honest). People raved about the cake and asked for the recipe. Here it is - again, with the goal of complete honesty in mind. My initial thought was to make the cake from scratch, but then there was a poop explosion and a baby crying and that thought immediately turned into 'screw it, let's try and find a gluten-free boxed cake.' I did make the icing from scratch though, and I must say that the cake was delicious and received many compliments including the fact that 'you can't even tell it's gluten free!', which is a bin win in my books.

Topped with some twigs (yes literal twigs from the cedar in my dad's backyard), a tiny banner and some plastic figurines from the dollar store and we had our Pinterest-inspired woodland cake. 

The chalkboard signs were pieces of scrap wood I found in my dad's garage, and painted with chalk paint. Seriously the easiest little project but so cute.  


Lastly, to flow with the woodland theme, the parting gifts for guests were these little fridge magnets. Again, my dad was an integral part of the project - he cut the slices of birch for me. I then stamped them with a baby footprint stamp I found at Michael's and glued magnets to the back and that was it! The most challenging part was trying to remember to give them away as people left.  

Annie's mother-in-law hosted the shower, and her cute, cozy, woodsy house only added to the theme and some of our other girlfriends helped with games, prizes and punch. 

Now, the party's over, the gifts are opened, the nursery is ready, and we anxiously await the arrival of the little prince. I can't wait for newborn snuggles and the chance to help out my buddy in this exiting new phase. I'm so excited to become an "Auntie" to this new little baby bear, and I'm sending warm, calming light to my friend. 

You've got this girl, and if you don't, I'm pretty sure there are lots of people watching from afar who will make sure everything will be just fine. 

Your boy is coming, and what a mama you'll be. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

In transition

There is a moment every year, in late summer, when you feel it. The dial slowly turning from summer to fall. For some, the feeling doesn't come until the yellow school buses are rolling by on that first morning of school, filled with students in their brand new clothes and pristine not-yet-broken-in backpacks. Others may feel it as they put away the summer toys and pack up the cottage, slipping on a sweater against the chilly evening air. Sometimes, it's the smell of wood smoke in the air, or the sheen of the morning dew on car windows that brings on that familiar fall feeling.  

For me, that moment came early this year. Last week, late afternoon, I took a walk with baby Aurora and our yellow lab Gus. I can't really explain what made me feel like fall except that the streets were quiet, and the sunlight cast a mellow yellow haze. Have the kids gone back to school? I wondered as I walked, then remembered it was only the second week of August. No sprinklers hissed, no bikes whirred by, the wind didn't even rustle the leaves on the trees. Everything was still. I felt a calmness wash over me, like someone was pushing the reset button.  

A week later, the temperatures soared again - the boats hummed back to life at the lake, the kids on bikes were back, summer had returned. We parked ourselves on the dock and I forgot all about that fall feeling as I baked in the sun. 

I'll admit that there's still some summer left. But even on those hot summer days, when the sun goes down and the chill settles in the air, it's hard to deny that the dial is turning - the transition is upon us.  

Summer 2016 has been the best one yet - I've enjoyed it with my new sidekick on my hip. But now I look forward - to cozy nights, cuddles, warm sweaters, cute costumes, and a whole new bunch of 'firsts' with my little family. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

My labour story

For almost 10 months leading up to the day I delivered Aurora, I was terrified of labour and delivery.

I read books, I watched videos (only the ones on youtube labelled 'clean', or 'no lower body shots'. Actually, one day I accidentally clicked on a video that portrayed a woman giving birth in a river, while her other kids played nearby. Not recommended if you're a first timer and are hoping for an indoor birth with medical intervention, as I was.) I also read many, many articles with titles like "Things no one tells you about having a baby", "Postpartum must-haves", "10 things not to take to the hospital", and "Primal playlists for positive pushing" (sidenote: I did not use a primal playlist, or any playlist, while pushing).

In the six weeks leading up to my due date, Damien and I attended a Lamaze class, which was fantastic and provided tons of information about labour, delivery, aftercare and breastfeeding in the most natural way possible. After each class, I would say to Dame "I think I can do a natural labour." I almost believed it. My husband, on the other hand, apparently knew me better than I knew myself. He would simply smirk and say "ok". My OB-Gyn apparently knew me as well. When he asked if I've considered pain relief options I said "I'm not ruling anything out - I'm planning on going with the flow." His response was "Good girl."

About three weeks before I was due, I went in for a check up. The doctor checked me and said "I've been wrong before, but I don't think you're going to make it to your due date. You're already 2 centimeters dilated and the head is down. I can feel the head."


The doctor assured me that no, the baby wasn't coming out now, but soon. This was contrary to everything I had read, learned, and researched. Typically, first babies go overdue. First time moms are often waiting it out days after their due dates, frantically Googling ways to bring on labour. I was still skeptical as I left the doctor's office and went back to work. I didn't feel like the baby was coming anytime soon. I didn't feel pressure, or pain, only a little cramping now and then. I went home that night and Googled "2 cms dilated 37 weeks" and read stories of women staying 2, 3, and even 4 centimeters dilated for weeks. "It's not a sure sign of anything," said one poster assertively.

At my check up the following week, my doctor put me off work ("the baby is coming anytime now, but try not to have it this weekend, because I'll be out of town"). That was a Tuesday. On Friday, I went shopping with a girlfriend. That was the first day I felt 'done'. I was done with being pregnant and achy. I was also having more consistent cramps (I realize now I was in early labour. At WalMart. In early labour). The next morning at 4 a.m., I rolled over in bed and felt a 'pop' - like a water balloon had popped down there. I went to the bathroom and realized that the 'pop' I felt was my water breaking - a process that would continue in a wet, leaky fashion for a good part of the morning.

I went back to the bedroom, and woke up Damien.

"Babe, my water just broke," I whispered.

"Are you sure?" was his groggy answer. I ignored the question, told him to go back to sleep, and went downstairs to call the hospital (I couldn't remember at what point I was supposed to go in.) The nurse I spoke to told me that yes, since my water had broken, I should come into the hospital now.

I went to tell Dame, who's next question was "do I have time to shower?" I said I thought so, and went to sit on my yoga ball while he showered and packed up the car. By this time, contractions were getting stronger, and closer together. On that dark, chilly Spring morning, we got into the car and left the house for the last time as a family of two.

As we were pulling out of the driveway Damien said "do I have time to grab a coffee?"

"REALLY?" I said, then considered his request. It was 5 a.m. and what was sure to be a very long day. "Sure. It'll be empty anyway."

When we got to the drive-thru there was a car in front of us. I remember yelling "WHY WOULD YOU ORDER 20 BAGELS IN THE DRIVE THRU?!" I have no idea if the person in front of us actually ordered 20 bagels, but the wait felt like an eternity. As we were pulling up to the window, another contraction started to hit. I gripped the 'holy shit handle' and waited for it to pass. So that's what those handles are for - pregnant women whose husbands decide they simply must have a coffee to celebrate their wives water breaking.

We made it to the hospital (with plenty of time to spare). The nurse checked me, told me I was 4 centimeters, and put me directly into the delivery room. I wish I had some extraordinary, dramatic story from here on out, but the truth is, my labour and delivery was fantastic. I attribute this fact directly to one person and one person alone - the saint of a doctor who came in with his little backpack and inserted a small needle into my back.

The decision to have an epidural wasn't all that difficult for me. I laboured in the delivery room with Damien for about two hours. The contractions were getting really painful. With every wave that hit, I would grab onto Damien and we would rock back and forth. I found walking helped with the pain, stopping during contractions to brace myself against the wall. Damien wore a burp pad on his shoulder covered in different smiling faces. Each time a contraction hit, I would stare at this one little orange guy with a mustache and breathe, counting in my head until it was over.

Around 8 a.m., the nurse told me the anesthesiologist was passing through, and this was my chance for pain relief, if that's what I wanted. Because he might be tied up in the OR the rest of the day, it may be my only chance, she said. By that time, contractions were coming about a minute apart, lasting about 30 seconds each, accompanied by dizziness and nausea. "Yes," I said, uttering the most cliche words for labouring women "I want the drugs."

Before I had Rory, I talked to many women about their labour experiences. Without fail, the women who had had an epidural all said things like "TAKE THE DRUGS." "Why would you not?" "It's not like you get a medal at the end for having a natural birth." The opinion of the women who had had natural deliveries was generally "It was bad, but worth it." It was the women who had had both - a delivery with drugs, and without - those were the opinions I most valued. Those women were more along the lines of "TAKE THE DRUGS - FOR THE LOVE OF GOD - TAKE THE DRUGS."

I don't know what it feels like to have a natural, drug-free birth, but I do know that almost immediately after I got the epidural, things were AMAZING. The room was so calm. I was able to chat with my nurse, my husband and my mother-in-law. I'm actually able to remember my labour and delivery - and remember it fondly. I was checking my phone. I was texting my sister. I was completely comfortable and relaxed.

About two hours after the epidural, the doctor came in to check me again (it was a locum - remember, my OB was out of town that weekend). The last time I was checked, about four hours earlier, I was four centimeters.

"WHOA...." said the doctor. "Wow, ok...." said the doctor. She looked at me and said "You're ten centimeters. I can see the head. There's lots of hair! Wow, that was fast. Are you ready to push?"

Push??? I thought? I was under the impression that typical first-time moms laboured for hours and hours, followed by at least an hour of pushing. That's what my research told me anyways.

"Um....not really. I'm not ready to push. I don't think I want to push yet. I don't feel ready" I answered. It had suddenly gotten real - the baby was

"Ok," said the doc. "Just hang out here for a little while and let me know when you're ready to push."
I hung out for another hour before the doctor came back in.

"Alright mom," she said. "We're going to start pushing. The baby is right there."

And so I did. And in atypical first-mom fashion (I was slowly learning that I was definitely NOT typical), I pushed for about 30 mins.

"Reach down and grab your baby mom!" said the doctor. I reached down, felt around, and there she was. I brought her up onto my chest - a purple, wet, tiny little thing. All I could see was the top of her head - full of black, matted hair. I remember saying "OH MY GOD!" about 20 times. I couldn't believe that after all the hoping, all the morning sickness, the fruit comparisons, the planning and the anxiety she was finally here. Except I didn't know yet that she was a she.

"What did I have?" I asked/screamed. No one seemed to hear me. The nurse was instructing Damien on cutting the umbilical cord. "Is it a girl or a boy?" I said, clutching Damien's arm.

"Take a look dad," said the doctor.

He leaned over. "It's a little girl," he said. That moment will go down as one of the best moments of my life. I cuddled my little girl. "It's Aurora Gillian," I said. "Hi Aurora."

If you're a soon-to-be mom, trying to figure out a 'birth plan,' doing research, talking to other moms, and you come across this post, just remember this:

There's no right way, or wrong way, to have a baby. Either way, that baby is coming out. And whether you have a natural birth or not, that moment you meet your baby, your sweet little boy or girl, is going to be one of the most terrifying, overwhelming, but mostly beautiful moments of your life. It's a moment you'll remember for the rest of your life.

And nothing, and no one can ever take that away from you.

Aurora Gillian - less than a day old

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dear Aurora: You're three months old

Dear Aurora, 

You're three months old! The past three months have been the biggest challenge of your mama and daddy's life, yet have passed in the blink of an eye.

I remember being pregnant with you and feeling so much love for you every time I felt a kick, flutter, or little poke in my tummy. I wondered if you would be a girl or a boy, what you would look like, who you would be. The second I delivered you, and pulled you up onto my chest, I thought "of course". Of course this is who you are, of course this is what you look like. Our tiny little Aurora Gillian was finally here. 

The first few days and weeks with you were extremely overwhelming. I was experiencing pain from delivery, struggling to feed you, and experiencing the most intense exhaustion I have ever felt. Your dad and I felt like we didn't have a freaking clue what we were doing. Other moms would say to me "Isn't it the best? Isn't it the happiest you've ever been?" I would smile and say "Yeah..." feeling guilty because inside I was really thinking "this is hell!" At the same time, there was such an intense, overhwhelming love and need to provide for you and protect you. 

At the beginning, little Rory, you and I struggled. We struggled with feeding, and I anxiously awaited that amazing breastfeeding connection that other moms talked about. When I was pregnant with you, I just knew breastfeeding would be a breeze for me. I would happily and proudly breastfeed anywhere and everywhere - in bed, while blissfully reading a book, on a park bench. But, just days in, you were miserable, you weren't gaining weight, and we were having to bring you to the doctor every couple of days to be weighed. You would scream in hunger all through the night and I would sob because I wasn't able to give you the one thing that all mamas are supposed to be able to give their babies. I was so committed to being able to breastfeed you that I cried (a lot) when I finally 'broke down' and gave you formula. I was convinced that I was doing you a huge disservice and tried everything to boost my supply, including eating what felt like gallons of oatmeal, lactation cookies, drinking mother's milk tea, letting you suckle for hours, and pumping until my nipples were black and blue (literally). Looking back now, I realize the formula I was giving you was finally filling you up, and you weren't hungry anymore. You started sleeping better and you were more content when you were awake. It was the best decision I could have made for both of us at the time and once I realized that, my guilt evaporated (along with my milk - sorry, couldn't resist) and I was finally able to enjoy my time with you without constantly stressing about whether or not you were hungry.

When you were just two months old, you took a road trip with mama and Grandpa Bill. We went to Toronto so you could meet your Great, Great Aunt Jean who was dying of cancer. Seeing her hold you with a huge smile on her face was so special, and something I'll always remember. How amazing for you to be able to fulfill someone's dying wish at only two months old. You were such a good girl, lying there peacefully in Aunt Jean's arms. Aunt Jean passed away the night we got home from our trip. We're all convinced that she held on to see the newest member of the McLaren crew (you!).

Sweet little Aurora, every day you continue to amaze your daddy and me. When you started smiling, I thought it was the best thing I had ever seen. When you carefully examine my face, when you look at your hands and then put them in your mouth, when you gently place your little hand on mine as you're falling asleep - all of these little moments make all of the hard days 1000 times worth it.

At the very beginning, when we were wondering how on earth we were going to get through it, some people would tell us "it gets better." I loved those people because they were a) admitting that having a newborn baby sometimes downright sucks, and b) assuring us that there were brighter, more rested days ahead. With every day that passes, I become more and more convinced that your dad and I have this under control. Not only do we know what we're doing, but we're actually getting pretty good at it.

Every time you smile, Rory, I fall in love with you all over again. When you coo contently, I am so proud of both you and I for how far we've already come. When you sleep for 7 straight hours I feel like you may just be the best baby in the whole world. When you're all cuddled up to be and I'm feeding you your bottle and you look up at me as if to say "thank you mama, I love you mama", it is one of the best parts of my day. 

Looking back over the past three months, I'm so proud of how far you and I have come. We've got a lifetime of learning, exploring, laughing, crying and growing together. We're just getting started, my girl, and I can't wait for the adventures that lie ahead.