It's a bit surreal to come back to my blog to write down this beautiful life event, especially as I log on and see that the last post I wrote about was a miscarriage post. Last year on Christmas day was when we started telling our family that we were pregnant with Birdie, so the fact that I went into labor on Boxing day morning, the following year is such a unique part of the story.
Joanie's due date was December 21, and I was sure I'd go early (since that was the most convenient for me, and Theodore came 8 days early so I just assumed...). I had a few weeks of on again off again Braxton Hicks contractions, often for hours through the night in a pattern that would peter out eventually. Each night going to bed I'd wonder if this was the night.
We'd planned to have a home birth for a variety of different reasons. I LOVED my birth story with Theodore, (water broke at home at 38 + 4, no contractions, went to the hospital for induction, got an epidural 2.5 hours in, born after 5.5 hrs of active labor), but the thought of a quick labor at home, especially due near Christmas, was a nice thought to me. We were cautious about moving forward with it because I didn't know how I would feel in the moment, and may be one of those people who prefers to be in a hospital setting, or change my mind and want an epidural, or need to transfer due to meconium in the fluid or something, and I didn't want to feel like I'd FAILED my home birth plan. So we set everything up, and also packed hospital bags just in case.
Now comes the good stuff. On December 26 at 1:45 in the morning I woke up with pretty bad "cramps", but I was used to this already from the weeks before so I didn't think much of it, I tried to keep sleeping. At 2:15 I looked at the clock assuming it'd been a few hours, and was quite surprised to see how many cramps I'd had in such a little time frame. I got up to go to the bathroom and from there started timing them. As soon as I got up I realized this was different. They got into a pattern pretty quickly of 2-3 minutes apart, but lasting only 30-45 seconds. The midwives had said to call once they were lasting a minute. I couldn't lay back down, I couldn't sit through a contraction, and I was starting to make noise, so at 2:45 I woke Dan up, telling him I wanted him to come help me make toast. (You know when you ask your husband to help you make something as simple as toast, it's probably more than just pre-labor). By 3:10 am we called the midwife, as well as 2 friends Aidan and Carmen Cooper to come over. Everyone arrived by 4 am, and thats when we moved to the basement which I'd made into a little cozy cave.
The midwife got all her stuff set up and then checked me at 4:30, and I was 6 cm dilated. Everything after that moved quite quickly. I was still managing contractions pretty well, laughing and chatting between them, and directing people around to unclog the toilet, get me water, light candles, and turn on music. During contractions I loved standing gripping the side of the stairs, keeping my hips wide and moving lots. Most women find different ways of coping as they get into active labor, whether it be imagining riding a wave, or visualizing their breath as it moves in and out of their body. I didn't really have a strong focus like that, but I did have a feeling of channeling my inner Beyonce. Haha. As a fairly modest person, I knew that in labor I wanted to feel uninhibited, and able to move my hips and sway as much as I wanted, visualizing my baby moving down into my pelvis as I swayed. A pre-labor song I listened to a lot that made me feel confident was "run the world" by Beyonce ( "who run the world? Girls...")
I coped like this while they filled the $45 fishy pool we'd bought from Canadian Tire. I didn't know how I'd like the water because I never had the opportunity with Theodore's birth. Let me tell you, it was THE BEST! Around 5:00 I got into it, and was in a sort of froggy lunge position. My water hadn't broken yet, and the water intensified everything, but in a great way. I knew that she was coming fast, and I felt so relieved and excited that we were still at home. I felt very safe, and uninhibited. The music playlist I'd chosen was relaxing, and with the hot water continually being added to the pool, and the heater on in the basement, it was so cozy. Dan says once I got in the tub he could tell it was getting intense for me because at the beginning of every contraction I would just start explaining what kind of pain it was, where it was, what it felt like. "Ohhh, this one is, it is, ohhhh, it's so low,......" "ok, ok, ok" "It's very intense". I thought I'd throw up, and asked for a bowl, and that was in a weird way a great reassurance because I knew I was in transition and that meant we were so close to meeting her! My doula pal Crystal also always says "one throw up does the work of a few contractions" so I knew even if I threw up, it would be progress, and I was genuinely thankful for each contraction that brought her closer to me.
I'm not sure when I started to actually push for real, but one of my favourite things about the birth was that it was completely self-directed pushing. I was able to do what felt good to me. They reassured me about what I was doing, but there was no counting, no "take a deep breath and give me 3 pushes the next contraction". With Theodores birth, I loved being directed, I loved having that reassurance that I was doing the right thing, and them telling me how and where and when to push. And this time, it was a unique and lovely experience to trust my body and tune in to what felt good.
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The song below came on my playlist and I asked them to keep it on repeat until she was born. When we were having our miscarriage, this song was on the album that I played over and over again. It was a song that gave me hope, I imagined our next baby, whether it was Birdy or another baby being born to this song. I listened to it many times in preparation for the birth, and imagined holding my little one, all wet and warm in my arms for the first time. I'd recommend playing it now while you finish reading the actual birth.
Pushing was so empowering. They told me they could see her head, and her hair was dark. Dan had asked earlier what he could do to help me, and I assured him that his presence right beside me was exactly enough. I felt in control, I felt safe and loved, and I didn't want to be distracted by what other people were doing in the room. Dan told me later that one of the midwives kept telling me to keep my sounds low, and I honestly don't remember her saying it even once. I was SO focussed. I couldn't even hear my own sounds if that makes sense. At one point I felt present to the room and heard myself and the sounds I was making and I felt surprised at how powerful they were. After reading "Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth" I was proud of myself for being able to be as uninhibited as the women's stories I'd read about.
My water broke about 3 contractions before she was born. Exactly the opposite of her brother who's water broke before contractions even started. I said out loud "It's good when I push. When I push it brings me closer to the end. I have to push to get her out" And then I looked around for reassurance that yes, indeed, that's how this works.
A few pushes later and I felt her head born, and then a few more small pushes and her body. They helped me grab hold of her and pull her up onto my chest. I'm not sure what I could possibly say that would describe the feelings of love and joy and excitement. The pictures I'm sure describe it much better than my words ever could!
She was born at 6:02 am, at 7lbs 8 oz.
After she was born, we waited for the cord to stop pulsing, Dan cut the cord, and we stayed there for a few minutes before they helped me onto the bed to deliver the placenta and do some minor repairs. Dan got his first cuddles with her and was instantly smitten.
We had an hour together before Theodore woke up and Dan went upstairs to get him. With Christmas the day before, he'd already had quite a bit of stuff going on for a 2.5 year old thrown out of routine, and he came down very cautiously and sceptical of all the people (2 midwives plus our 2 friends, plus a fishy pool full of water and Christmas lights on the wall). When I offered him to cuddle with me and eat my snacks he hopped on the bed happily to eat with me and watch everyone else's activity before Grandma and Grandpa came to pick him up for the day.
My birth experiences with Theodore and Joanie were opposites in many ways, and both of them are my favourite! When I think back to Theodore's hospital induction epidural birth, I would not change anything. We made choices, we felt empowered, and we did what we felt most comfortable doing at the time. Joanie's 3.5 hour labor and low risk pregnancy made me relieved that we could stay home and that we were able to feel equally as empowered and comfortable there. If I had this birth as my first birth, I'm honestly not sure I would have felt as empowered at home as I did, but who I am now is very different than who I was for Theodore's pregnancy. I think that's one of the most beautiful aspects of birth, is that it is SO incredibly personal, and so timely. It isn't always within our control, in fact for the most part, it isn't in our control. Our babies make many of the decisions for us, and we have the opportunity to grow and thrive in changing environments, and circumstances. Birth reveals to us the resilience of women, and the ability we have within ourselves to make loud uninhibited noises, to ask for reassurance, to go back to the very basics of comfort, our need for touch, or our need to be untouched.
Thanks for reading this incredibly special moment in our lives. We are so thankful for Joanie's safe and beautiful arrival, and adjusting well at home! Now as a "stay at home mom" again for a little bit, I hope to continue blogging about the adjustment and motherhood through the daily grind.
Thank you for following along if you've continue reading up to here. Before I keep going, I feel like I need to just tell you that we have felt SO blessed and overwhelmed by our community, and that we feel hopeful for the future. I also wanted to say that up until this point, this is the post that I feel the most vulnerable writing. But yet I think this is the part that the language of loss is maybe missing the most in todays society, and so I press on with openness and vulnerability, hoping that one day if this happens to you or a friend, or someone you love, you know that it is ok to ask questions, and that there is actually healing in the tough questions.
Just moments after I got out of the shower, the healing shower in my last post, hair still up in a towel, I got a call from my midwife. I prepared myself for the confirmation that they saw no heartbeat, or that the baby was measuring too small and wasn't going to make it, but I wasn't prepared for what she said. "Melissa, we took a look at the ultrasound, and it's been confirmed that you have a blighted ovum." ...
"Just a sac"...
"blah blah blah"
other medical talk about how my body would naturally pass this empty sac or I could take medication to "expel" it.
"Wait, what? There's no baby? It's empty? This feels like a trick" I cried to the midwife. "It's like a terrible trick"
My body, mind soul are pregnant for a child. They have been fully preparing and falling in love with a little being. I've been hormonal, exhausted, nauseous,...pregnant!
At this point I actually thought to myself how thankful I was that this was the same midwife that delivered Theodore, so instead of feeling a cold phone call, I felt like I was processing with a friend. What a gift and a bonus blessing that this voice was someone who cared for me and was so familiar. I gushed on to her about how thankful I was, and hoped to get her again in a future pregnancy because this experience made me just appreciate her so much more.
"Melissa we will transfer your care now back to your doctor, but please don't hesitate to page me over the weekend if you want to talk more, if you have questions, concerns or absolutely anything! You are strong and you are going to make it through this, and hopefully we will see you again in a few months."
We hung up and my mind whirled. When does a soul begin?
As a Christian I always thought "at conception", and the night before my sister in law texted me saying "we gain comfort in the thought of Jesus holding your beautiful baby in heaven soon." I couldn't make it through the text without wiping my eyes full of bubbled tears. It was true, that was the most beautiful image. As a woman who is obsessed with birth, training to be doula next week, this earthside birth was just devastating, it was empty, lonely, tragic. The thought of our baby being birthed into heaven, the land of the living- it felt like this birth story being redeemed.
But the words "no baby" echoed in my mind.
Days went by and I didn't know what to make of this. Some people trying to give comfort saying "It did have a soul since life began, you will see this baby again." Others saying "Hopefully it makes it easier to grieve, knowing that it is just flesh and blood, but no real person." But the truth was that neither of those was enough. I just had to sit with it with God for a bit, to quiet my heart and listen.
According to google 50% (!!!!!!) of miscarriages are due to blighted ovum. And some women who have blogged about it say that it made it easier to grieve knowing they weren't losing a "person" in there. Here's the conclusion I've come to, is that grief is COMPLETELY personal, and we each need to be taken on our own journey with it. Everyone is going to take their own time and their own way to think through these things. I'm crazy and started a blog, that's not for everyone. Some people keep it to themselves, others of us put it on Facebook for everyone to see, and ask for their friends to bring them meals, and neither is wrong. Some will take a lot longer to sit with these things, and others will move on to hope for the future much quicker. But we do need each other. We all need each other. We need not be ashamed at the amount of grief we do or do not experience. We need not be ashamed or embarrassed that this happened. We need not feel guilty even though it seems in this moment that our bodies have failed us. We need each other.
I know that for me, this circumstance has totally been used by God as a way to draw me closer to Him to ask these questions and to take time to just sit and ask Him to comfort me in my grief. It has been a time of asking deep theological things, which I don't usually do, and coming to the conclusion that whether or not it was a soul and I will see what we believed to be our precious baby in heaven one day, God cares about ALL of life, he cares about every single worry we have, and he wants to redeem and heal our broken hearts. His love for me through this has proved to be more true and strong than I could have imagined.
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you: He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me." Psalm 23:4
"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." Psalm 9:9
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
"When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you."
"I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us." Romans 8:18.
Now to conclude todays post, this is the original reason I reached out on Facebook, was because I wanted to hear from other women how they dealt with their "blighted ovum" miscarriage. I wanted to know how you grieved, how you found comfort, and how you moved on. Did you find space to ask these questions, did you feel like you could take the time to process at your own speed or did you feel pressure to "move on" quickly. Was there a verse or something someone said that brought healing as you thought through it.
ONE last thing, Dan thought it would be lovely at our little "funeral " thing that he and I are doing, to donate money to a charity that gives back somehow to mothers who have lost babies either through miscarriage, or infant loss.. I'd love to hear some of the resources you found helpful, or charity's that you've heard of that we could support.
Good morning Birdy,
We didn't have a good ultrasound.
The ultrasound tech didn't show us anything, which made me feel a pit in my stomach.
At 9 weeks we were expecting him to show us something, anything, but he didn't.
He didn't show us a "measuring small baby", he didn't show us a heartbeat, there was nothing.
Instead, he asked how quickly we would be able to talk to our doctor.
Your dad and I knew we'd lost you, but the news sunk in like waves, big brother Theodore being quite the distraction as we left the clinic and settled in at home.
Theo has been a real gift to us and I believe he has been very in tune with my grief. He pulls my hand when I'm laying on the couch to come play trains with him, or he simply climbs up to cuddle me, even though I know he'd rather me get on the floor and play with him.
That day I texted my girls asking for prayer because I just knew you were no longer with us, but that the worst was yet to come.
After dinner I started to get cramps and bleed more. I put Theo to bed and as he urged me to sing again and again the lullabies I'd sung to him since I knew I was pregnant with him, I cried and cried.
He stroked my face, the hair around my face, and even sniffled when I sniffled.
I thought about you Birdy, and how that might be the last time I'd be singing those songs to you, with you in my body. And Theodore knew. He didn't want it to end, probably mostly on his own toddler terms-not wanting to surrender to the slumber- but I think he somehow sensed the beauty and the profound meaning of the moment. So I kept singing, over and over, "Jesus loves me", "Edelweiss", and "Lullaby my baby", voice shaky, and I held you both close, drinking in my last night as mother of 2.
The next morning I got into the shower and played my favourite album right now, Sleeping at Last, Atlas, Year 1. I listened to the song "I'll keep you safe" on repeat, and I just bawled and bawled. I cried in the same way I cried after Theodore was born- postpartum tears- the loss of a piece of myself- the overwhelming feelings of trying to figure out my own identity with the knowledge of my body no longer holding 2 souls but now only 1.
It is profoundly lonely, that moment.
In the shower, I let the hot water run straight onto my face, tears and water mingling, not knowing which is salty and which is fresh, it feels like the whole shower is crying for me and with me. I held out my hands, the song lyrics pouring over me.
" I'll keep you safe, try hard to concentrate. Hold out your hand, can you feel the weight of it? The whole world at your fingertips, don't be, don't be afraid... I promise I'll keep you safe... darkness will be rewritten into a work of fiction, you'll see, as you pull on every ribbon, you'll find every secret it keeps..
you are an artist and your heart is your masterpiece.. and I'll keep it safe."
Birdy, you are my little miracle. And there is something you've got to know about me, your mama. I am not strong enough on my own. I needed that moment, that song, those tears, to remind me that I too am a miracle, that I am being held and kept safe in the face of suffering.
I loved the line in the song that talks about when darkness is rewritten, "as you pull on every ribbon you'll find every secret it keeps", and I imagine myself standing in heaven, making sense of these heart wrenching moments in life, and pulling on the ribbon and inside of it finding your beautiful soul, and all of the amazing ways that God is going to redeem this. Because he has to. Because he loves, you and me Birdy.
Hello friends, as many of you saw my post on social media this weekend, Dan and I lost a pregnancy at 9 weeks last week, and are still in the midst of our grieving, processing, and healing physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Since sharing our news, I have been SO blessed an honoured to have so many women I know and love share their own stories with me and I felt a huge burden lifted as I could suddenly KNOW that we are not alone in this grief. Everyone grieves in their own way, and for me, blogging, journalling, and sharing is the best way for me to process.
The next series of blog posts will be my raw account of finding healing and processing what has happened to us. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, and I hope that in me sharing our own story, it will help others find healing, comfort, and know that they are not alone. Please feel no pressure to read, but this is both my gift to myself, and maybe a gift to you if you are in a similar place.
December 21, 2016.
Hello my dear! You exist! You are the size of a poppy seed, and you are my little, lovely person. We just found out about you officially through a test yesterday, but I've known about you since 4 days earlier. Even before a pregnancy test could show up positive, the rest of my body already knew. I had been tired, and experiencing nausea already- which is much sooner than with Theodore- so I've actually wondered if you're twins in there! We haven't told our families yet, but we will in the next 2 weeks and that will make everything more real! Your dad and I were both SO excited that it was true, and last night we got Aunty Katie to babysit your big brother Theodore so Daddy and I could go out for dinner to talk and dream all about you! I am already so excited to meet you and know who you are. I love you more than you can imagine!
January 25, 2017
Littlest one, What a journey we've already had with you! Your dad and I told my side of the family on Christmas day with a little ornament that I embroidered with your due date on it. Everyone was so excited for us, and can't wait to meet you. We told grandma, grandpa, aunty Michelle and uncle Jason the following Sunday, New years day, by bringing Theodore over with a shirt that said "#1 big bro". Of course they squeeled too!
Then we told our friends at our house over dinner. All of the girls had a sense about it already. Katie even had a little "gift" of ginger candies in a gift bag ready for me. My girls know me well. It's neat to be pregnant at the same time as so many of them. Hannah announced that they're having a girl. Brittany announced that they're having TWINS, a boy and a girl! And Katie is also expecting!
About 3 weeks ago I had some bleeding so I went to the doctor, had an ultrasound and 3 bloodwork. The doctors told us that at 6 weeks you were measuring more like 4, and we'd just have to wait and see. Dan commented to me that hearing you were small made you seem like an underdog and he just wanted to cheer you on! He said knowing that little detail about you made him love you so much more. It's the only thing we know about you so far. For about a week and a half it was a roller coaster, we didn't know if you were doing ok in there. I cried many tears and it broke my heart to think of the possibility that we might not meet you on this side of eternity.
Then the doctors seemed reassured at increasing HCG levels and the midwife was positive too so we were accepting again that you may be totally healthy and good in there.
Ever since the midwife appointment though I've been bleeding and filled with the fear that you are no longer with us, or that we are in the process of losing you. I'm asking God for a miracle tonight. That he will heal the bleeding and take you up to speed in your development, and that we can meet you face to face one day. We love you so much little bean, and we'll see you tomorrow morning in the ultrasound. xoxo Mama.
Hello dear friends! It's been awhile since I've been able to blog, and I must say, I missed it!!
Let's jump right in.
Imagine this. It's 9 am and you just received a text message from your friend that their baby was born through the night! You've been anticipating this text for weeks now, and can't wait to pop over to the hospital on your way to work, to surprise them so you can sneak in a little newborn cuddle
If I can quote "The Grinch" here... I'd playfully say "wrong-o!"
As a social butterfly, before I had a baby, I anticipated myself wanting as many visitors as often as possible in the first few days. But after having Theodore, I realized just how intense and sacred those first few days and weeks are, and wished I could just have a quick and handy resource guide that I could hand out to friends and family so they would understand my needs a bit better. Not being able to find one, forced me to learn to communicate, but this is for all of you other people with friends having babies soon.
In order to be a good friend to your friend who's just had a baby, here's some tips:
(disclaimer, obviously this is all from my own experiences. Every woman is of course different though! When in doubt, just ask her what she needs and wants! If you've had a baby recently, I'd love to know what you agree or disagree with- leave a comment! )
1. New Mom is tired. Even if she gave birth during the day, her body has been carrying around another fully formed body for the past few months, and the process of birth likely took it's toll. She is STRONG, and has endured a lot, but her body will now be playing catch up for the next few months. Do ask her when she might be up for a visit, and don't assume it will be in the first week of babies' life. Do show up on time, Do ask her how long she'd like you to stay, and Do take hints if it seems like she's getting tired or hinting for you to head out the door. She loves you, but she's tired.
2. New Mom probably doesn't know what is in her fridge, let alone have something to offer you. She's been busy trying to figure out how to keep a newborn alive, whether it be through breastfeeding, pumping, or formula. She is learning a new schedule, and probably won't have your favourite coffee cake or maybe even coffee to offer. Do text the night before to offer to bring her favourite drink, Do stop at Cake and Loaf Bakery to pick up a chicken pot pie on the way, or make a meal with leftovers to bring.
3. New Mom may feel too supported, or she might not feel supported enough. The only way to know, is to ask. She may have too many people asking to come visit and she feels overwhelmed as a people pleaser not wanting to let people down, and say yes at the expense of her own rest and recovery time. On the other hand, she may be feeling unsupported, and want more visitors! Do remember that as much as YOU want to cuddle the newborn, and as much as SHE wants to show him or her off, this is also about HER. Everyone everywhere will ask about the baby, and want to see their cute and perfect little toes. Do remind new mom that you love HER and who she is becoming as a mom. Do ask her how you can support her. Do ask her how she's doing emotionally, and give her a hug.
4. New Mom actually likes to cuddle the baby too. Trust me when I say that everyone who comes to visit, will want to hold the baby, and everyone thinks that's a helpful thing to do. When Theodore was born, everyone offered to help by holding him, so I could do something else, like have a bath, or do the dishes or laundry or go get groceries. Maybe I am a rare breed who thinks this is an appropriate thing to ask, but I definitely think there is a place for the closest family and friends to step in and offer to do those things too. If you've held the baby for awhile, do ask her if there's anything else you can do to bless her. Name a few things like dishes or laundry or vacuuming, so she understands you're talking about unpleasant things. Especially if you are a friend who visits regularly, there will be lots of time to share the baby around, but treating your friend to a sink full of clean dishes, now THAT is showing her you love her.
5. New Mom has fallen in love. It's hard to explain the overwhelming obsession with your newborn until you experience it. Just like you would ask questions to a friend when they have a crush and you want to know all the details of their latest date, even if you don't have children yet, try to understand that new mom has fallen head over heels, and might not know how to talk about anything else for awhile. Do listen to her gush on and on, Do ask questions, Do remember that she is trying to figure out her new role in life, and give her grace when she doesn't ask too many questions back because she is still living in this moment with her newborn.
Now go find a new mom and bless her in abundance, because she's in the middle of a crazy amazing beautiful whirlwind season, and she loves you, and she needs you.
(Shout out now to all my family and friends who were SO supportive through our pregnancy and the first year of our little guy's birth. We were so blessed by you. Thank you for understanding me and being gracious when I was tired and grumpy and obsessed and hormonal. It was one of the craziest and best times of my life, and your support means the world to me.)
It was a fourth year Counselling class that enticed us into meeting. A 3 hour Friday afternoon class in the aches and groans of winter, around this time of year actually. There were no connecting busses running from our small University to get me townhouse and in need of a carpool home. You were quite excited to drop me off on your way home, and our conversation was easy, just like it always is in the fairy tales. It was so easy in fact, that we got carried away in it and missed a few turns. As the weeks went on, it wasn't hard to fall in love with you. You were far from being my soul mate, we are opposites in all sorts of ways, and not in the "oh that's so cute, you complete each other" kind of way. The kind of way that we have to be creative and sacrificial sometimes in order to make dates that will be fun for each of us. The kind of way that we've had to both learn that the best and deepest kind of joy actually does come from laying yourself down for the other. Dan, you've done that for me. Right from the start. You wooed me with your lack of a mental map that seems to get you lost in the most familiar places. You wooed me with your hilarious and might I say "dorky" but adorable song "gobble girl". You wooed me with your interpretive dancing, your wardrobe that you'd had since grade 10, and your ability to make me feel like the whole world is always at my finger tips and my dreams really can become realities.
Our "honeymoon phase" ended before we even got to go on a honeymoon, and while we saw the worst parts of the other, you had more grace and selfless enduring love than I could explain. The fairy tale ended but what we exchanged for it in return was way better. Truth. Raw, real truth. You love me honestly, you love me always in the best way you know how, even when I'm really difficult to be around because I can be selfish and grumpy and very very hangry.
As days and weeks and months together have turned into years, the ups and the downs, the natural rhythms of life ebb and flow, pulling us apart, and pushing us back together. I've been learning Dan, that the more I love you, the more I love you. The more real and raw that we've been enticed to be, through marriage, through moving, through starting and ending a PhD, through having a child, through loving a lovely child, the less this looks like a fairytale, and the more it looks so much more amazing. I'd chose real over fairy tale any day.
One of my favourite things we started doing after we got married, was asking each other every once in awhile, "Do you want to marry me tomorrow? " or simply phrased, "lets get married again tomorrow". It reminds me again and again, that this is a choice. I mean it's not, we've made a covenant, and we are blessed to be married every moment of every day until the day we die. But, I love that each morning, you choose to be married to me, to be married well, to not just drift along, or drift apart.
"Today is about the promise of the future and all the great moments of the past, and, indeed this beautiful present where you stand together, surrounded by people who love you and who are praying that your marriage is one of the great ones. It could be you, you know, if you work hard and forgive often and get over yourself and your selfishness over and over again. It could be one of the stories people tell, when they want to believe in love's power and life's richness. It could be one that your children and grandchildren tell each other, praying that someday they'll have a love like yours." Shauna Niequist.
So much happens in the world of a family when a new baby is welcomed in. I'm so thankful for Dan's participation and willingness to be interviewed, and open us all up a little bit more to his world during this process!
And now I hand things over to Dan:
Before diving in I want to say a quick thank you to you, Mel’s readers. For those that know Mel, you know that she is quite the chatty Cathy, and we love her for it. There was a joke in Mel’s family when she was growing up that she talked in her sleep (which she did) because there wasn’t enough time in the day for her to get out everything she had to say. Well that’s kind of how I feel about this blog for her. Because you guys listen to what she says in this blog, I believe I get a few more minutes of quiet around the house. And for that I thank you
Here’s my responses to some questions Mel gave me:
Q: How did you feel you found out I was pregnant?
A: The worst. Let me explain. Mel wanted a baby much before I did. But over time and with a number of talks I warmed up a bit to the possibility. I didn’t feel 100% ready for a baby but I also knew that I’m one of those anxious perfectionist types that never quite feels 100% ready for anything – I can always be a bit more prepared! I also knew that it took many couples months and even years to get pregnant, so I thought that if we started trying now the odds were I’d still have some buffer time to prepare myself. Oh how far from the truth that was! One day I told Mel that I was feeling “ready enough”, and literally a few months later we found out she was pregnant!
I vividly remember talking to her before she was going to take a pregnancy test. She was giddy and excited, but I was totally calm and tried to calm her down. “Mel we’ve only been trying for a few months! The chances are really low that you’re pregnant right now.” I didn’t want her to be too disappointed when she found out she wasn’t pregnant. Oh how wrong I was! She came running back into the room and showed me the proof. In the moment I couldn’t help but be shocked and excited, but as the minutes passed the terrifying reality set in. You’re a father Dan!
Anyway, those first two days after finding out were the hardest. I won’t dig too deep into my psyche, but suffice to say insecurities about myself and what sort of life we could provide for our child plagued me. And to be honest I still have insecurities about what sort of dad I’ll be for Theodore. But it has definitely improved since those first two days. I’ve realized that all first-time fathers are just figuring it out as they go – that made me feel a little better.
Q: Was the birth what you expected?
A: I don’t think I really knew what to expect. So many different things could happen, so I just thought to myself that whatever happens happens. I will say though that it took a while for the oxytocin to work its magic and start contractions. So for what seemed like a long time we were just walking around an empty hospital having fun and taking selfies. It was totally chill and light-hearted. I wasn’t expecting to have time like that.
Q: How did your views of me change through birth and the first few days?
A: Honestly they didn’t. Maybe that sounds like a disappointing answer at first. But I knew that Mel was made to be a mother. She had dreamed about motherhood, pregnancy, babies, and child-rearing since she was a baby herself! She is an incredibly tough cookie too. So I knew that she’d be able to handle whatever was thrown at her during delivery or afterwards. I also knew how much research she did about all this stuff. I swear you had to twist her arm to work in university, but simply mention babies and she’ll be googling until the cows come home. So ya, I had full confidence in her the whole time.
Q: Is there anything that surprised you about your new life?
A: I’ve gotta say one of the biggest sources of anxiety for me leading up to Theodore’s birth was sleep deprivation. I need sleep! Neeeeeeed it! Like I’m one of those 8 hours of sleep per night MINIMUM type of people. So the thought of staying up late, waking up through the night, and waking up early sounded dreadful. Not just a matter of a little inconvenience but a matter of well-being to me (and those around me). But you know what, it turned out not to be so bad! Not sure if it was a miracle or adrenaline (same thing?) but I totally managed getting less sleep. I do have to say though that Mel probably took a greater share of waking up through the night than I did – so props to her for that.
Q: How did our marriage change?
A: I wouldn’t say our marriage changed as much as the circumstances of our marriage changed. Theodore has presented us with a bunch of new opportunities and challenges that we’ve had to respond to. And it totally has not all been easy. Probably hardest of all has been figuring out who get’s to have personal time (i.e. away from Theodore) when and who needs to take care of Theodore when. It’s kind of discouraging when you realize your baby ALWAYS needs supervising – and one or both of you needs to do it (except when babysitters bail you out – props). So that’s been a process needing much communication. But like all challenges that are dealt with positively I believe all this has simply helped Mel and I grow closer and become more mature (I know it’s been a maturing process for me at least).
Q: What’s your favorite thing about being a dad?
A: The feeling of superiority over someone it gives me.
Just kidding. I’ve got to say it’s the 1003 little charming and hilarious things Theodore does on a daily basis. He truly is a joy to be around (not always, but much of the time!). The blinks, the babbling, the clapping – I love that stuff.
Q: Any advice to new dads and new parents?
A: Nope! In many ways I feel like parenthood is a journey everyone has to kind of take for themselves. That’s not to say taking classes, reading books, or talking with friends are useless. All those things are great. But at the end of the day each birth, baby, and couple is unique. You just have to pull up your bootstraps and deal with whatever comes your way! I knew so little about how to parent or take care of a baby – not sure if I had ever changed a diaper before – but I just figured it out. So if I can do it so can any other person. Once again though, I will give props to Mel. She knew so much and researched so much that she made me feel more confident about the whole process haha.
Tell me if this has happened to you before. You're putting laundry away, and realize that as you open your drawers and hang things on hangers, that you're looking at clothes you don't wear very often. You pause, pulling out a shirt you remember wearing 3 years ago, but not since. You think to yourself "I should get rid of this, I never wear it. Nah, I might want to sometime, and then I won't have it." I'm not kidding, I had a pink TNA zip-up hoodie, that I almost never wore, because I just don't love the colour pink, but I couldn't get rid of it because it was brand name. I liked simply having it, because it was a name that others would recognize and associate with expensive. Even though I didn't even like it!
It seems impossible to get rid of this stuff, because stuff in our society has become a measurement of worth, of power, of influence. In some cultures, it's not even enough any more if we have MORE stuff, but we've also added our own value system to certain names and brands of stuff, in order to make our personal worth seem more measurable. So this morning, as I cleaned my room, and I looked at clothes I don't even wear, I felt this crazy urge to purge. Do you ever get that urge to purge? After I made a pile and moved the pile into a box that I call my "pass along box", I realized Theodore was magically still asleep, so I opened the book I've been reading lately by Henri Nouwen, and came across this quote:
"Training for service is not a training to become rich but to become voluntarily poor; not to fulfill ourselves but to empty ourselves; not to conquer God but to surrender to his saving power. All this is very hard to accept in our contemporary world, which tells us about the importance of power and influence. But it is important that in this world there remain a few voices crying out that if there is anything to boast of, we should boast of our weakness."
Now you might be wondering what on earth this has to do with hospitality. Whether I admit it or not, the more value I put on my things, the more I live with my hands closed into fists. Ironically, the less I have, the more I want to share and alternatively the more I have, and the nicer I have, the more I want to keep and protect my things. And now, as homeowners, I think about how to welcome the stranger here, how to welcome a growing little boy here and let him come into himself here. I think about how to put the most value on the people, the strangers, the family, the friends. How to keep my hands open and my heart full.
The act of welcoming another soul into the fullness of home, has much more to do with the availability of our spirits than the currency of our home decor, or the brand of clothing we are wearing. Duh. Really though. In his book, Henri Nouwen explains that "Poverty is the inner disposition that allows us to take away our defences and convert our enemies into friends. We can only perceive the stranger as an enemy as long as we have something to defend. But when we say, "Please enter- my house is your house, my joy is your joy, my sadness is your sadness and my life is your life," we have nothing to defend, since we have nothing to lose but all to give."
I think he's saying here, that when we see ourselves for who we really are, which is humans, equally impacted by the human condition, equally loved in the eyes of God, and equally in need of community and hospitable love, it is that which finally opens us up for real connection with others. When we invite others to share in that space, truly putting aside our attempts to impress with our stuff, and the many ways we use material items to assert power and influence, it finally becomes a safe space, free of prejudice, free of comparison, free of jealousy.
As I finish packing up my "pass along box", I want my soul to reflect this new space I've found in my closet. I want to become a woman who has open hands.
6 days after Theodore was born, I went on my first outing with friends. The April weather was drizzly, and we had to walk quickly to our destination to avoid the rain. We ordered our latte's and sat down at the window seat, looking out at the beautiful Bayfront. As soon as we were sitting I asked Sarah, Hannah and Katie excitedly, “Tell me EVERYTHING! What’s new in your lives?!” I felt like it had been years since I'd seen them, even though 2 of them were at the hospital only 6 days earlier. As they started telling me their updates, I realized I had no idea how I would describe my new life. Absolutely everything was different. Everything. Where would I possibly begin?
My concept of food had changed as breastfeeding in the early days made me ravenous, and my hunger somehow insatiable (Actually come to think of it I still feel that way, ha, what can I say, I'm a girl who loves her food!). For the first time in my life I’d started packing a lunch box before bed to eat through the night during Theodore's feedings. It didn’t help that one of my shows of choice to watch during night feeds was MasterChef. I can’t describe the disappointment I’d felt to pull out my pb and j sandwich and ziplock container of carrots to munch on while watching the Chefs whip up multi-course FEASTS with ease. Midnight favourites included bran muffins (brought to me by Courtney Switzer), an baked peach oatmeal (brought by Deanna Harris), and fresh cut up veggies prepared by Dan. We were so blessed by friends who brought brought meals, and in the early weeks, if we didn't have food, I would wander upstairs in my housecoat and Carmen our "landlord" who became more like an older sister and she would feed me whatever they had from their kitchen which is always full of tasty food which somehow nourished both my tummy and my soul. I thought Pregnancy taught me about the term "hangry", but no, pregnancy hunger has NOTHING on breastfeeding hunger. Poor Dan experienced the brunt of my Hanger the most.
My concept of family was obviously different, and I suddenly understood why every mom I know posts so many photos of their children. As soon as my hours of labor were done, I was instantly obsessed with him and I know that I’d do everything I could in this world to ensure he ALWAYS knows how much he’s loved. Then I realized my parents feel the same about me, and felt a blanket of humility wash over me in the best way possible. As Dan and I got to know sweet Theo over the days, in the eerily quiet mornings, and the hustle and bustle of every day activities, we felt as though he was a part of our family puzzle that we didn't realize was missing. He wasn't just our baby, he was our Theodore. He was immediately irreplaceable.
My concept of my body changed. A body I used to criticize and wish I could trade for another, has become a friend, and finally I can own that it is mine, without shame of it’s weird shapes, squiggles, and cellulite. At that coffee shop, they asked me how I was healing, they asked me what I felt like. I didn't know how to explain it. This body is not familiar, it’s soft, and gushy. Everything felt like it had fallen apart. My hips ached, my back was sore, and just so incredibly unfamiliar. My body works very hard, and it is tired. I have learned since then and become more in tune with it’s rhythms. It’s humanness. It is still soft and perfectly gushy. I've learned to listen to it when it tells me that it's time to be strong and it’s time to rest. It’s times to exercise and it’s times to rejuvenate. I’ve learned the discomforts and the beauty of housing another soul, another body with a heartbeat, another set of kicking legs within. I’ve learned the discomfort and the all consuming wonder and beauty of birth. I’ve learned the discomfort and the beauty of a now empty womb, and the discomfort and beauty of attachment through breastfeeding. And one day soon, I’ll experience the discomfort and beauty of my first born being weened, and my body once again being only mine.
My concept of friendship has changed. My close friends have seen me more times than not, with yesterdays clothes, food in my hair, and unable to remember my last shower. They’ve been ok with trading in our cozy local coffee shops with aromas of dark roast coffee blends and options of sweet or savoury muffins, for simply hanging out at our house without all the extras. They’ve understood that when Dan and I invite them over for dinner, most of the time it means we’re eating leftovers, or have ordered in pizza. They’ve been gracious with me as I’ve been emotional, self-centred, and obsessed with my kid as I’ve transitioned to this crazy life.
My concept of marriage has changed. Sacrifice. Dan is SUCH a giver. I don’t even know how to say it, he works so hard for our family and I’m So blessed. (* I’ll post a blog about that later, called “For Dan”, ** Also keep posted about a soon to come post which will be an interview with Dan about the challenges and excitements about being a new dad, and his role as a husband changing, if you’ve got questions you’d like him to answer, send them along )
If I were sitting down today, with Hannah, Katie, Sarah, and they asked me how life had changed since motherhood, I'd say, everything is different. And yet everything is the same. To my beautiful friends, if you one day have the joy of welcoming a new person into your life, who you will give so much love, and who takes every last piece of your attention, I hope that as your heart grows to make room for them, that you too feel joy in the familiar places. I hope that in a world where everything seems new and unfamiliar and daunting, that the aroma of coffee reminds you of who you've always been, and takes you back to our coffee dates both out and about and on our worn down couches. I hope the people who love you will spoil you with fresh baked oatmeal and bran muffins for when pooping in your unfamiliar body is scary. I hope you find yourself in the daily routines you used to do, before this new person took so much of your attention. I hope that you remember to journal and take photographs, and do things that remind you of when you were just you, because you are the only you to offer this world, and your little person. You are a wonderful you. I hope that someone will pack you a lunch box of hearty snacks to devour through the night.
This post is about a different kind of birth. The birth of a mother. There’s a quote I love so much, I use it often when I talk to new moms, because it describes this new birth so succinctly. “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed before, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” - Rajneesh (I have no idea who that is, I found this quote on pinterest)
My birth into motherhood, happened both instantly the moment he was laid on my chest, and gradually, through sleepless nights and cuddles. But mostly it started in the bath. The first time I was ever alone was 3 days after Theodore was born. A friend had given me a bunch of herbs and salts to make a healing bath, and Dan offered to take Theodore so I could just soak my wounded body. For the first time in 3 days, time stood still, and I treasured the time to just glide my hands through the water, and let it piece together my confused soul. I had time to pray, to ponder, and go to a deep place within myself that the flurry and beauty of newborn baby can so easily distract from.
There in the stillness, I realized that not only was this the first time I’d been alone in 3 days, but 9 months rather. Over the months, he’d grown, a part of me. His kicks, hiccups, and somersaults were mine. He was my little buddy, who woke me through the night, who made me waddle, and who added a roundness to my tummy, face and ankles that wasn’t once there. Everywhere I went, he went. But yet, here I was, in the bath, alone.
It was eery at first, I’ll be honest. But as I began to think about it, my attention turned to study my body. I cautiously felt one stitch at a time, and was in AWE that my body had BIRTHED the living being in the other room, the perfect little creature came safely into the world, and my body was so strong to do it!
I would touch my empty belly, and it felt hollow, so gushy. I thought about what it meant, the hollowness, that it was all mine again, which I felt both liberated by, and deeply sad and lonely about. I felt space to just be, to just breathe.
My baths often led to tears of release. Release of emotion that I couldn’t describe. Amazement that mentally and physically I'd birthed him, and could continue to breastfeed through so much pain and challenge after challenge. Amazement that God made my body with the capability to grow, birth, and nourish a human. Amazement that my own mother did this for me. Amazement at the gift of marriage, and who Dan had become to me. He SO selflessly gave of himself during this season, and I couldn’t have done it without him.
I was amazed at the power of a hug, our family, the 3 of us, my favourite blessing.
And in those moments of being alone, of my body being a home for one individual soul again, I realized that this was my birth into motherhood. That this motherhood was just mine. And that every day I would be birthed into it again and again.
I'm a farm girl living in the city, a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother. I love the simple things in life, and love to share them with others.