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