Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

It is hard to believe that just under four and half years ago, on December 15, 2009, at 1:00 am, my water broke.  It was the symbol of my old life being washed away to make way for the new life that would greet me twenty four hours later over the curtain on the operating room table at Victoria General Hospital. From the moment I heard the popping sound and felt the subsequent rush of water I knew my life would never be the same.

In the months leading up to Ali’s birth I had read all the books, blogs, forums and anecdotes I could get my hands on. I was going to be the most prepared mother ever with Ali adapting to my life and not the other way around. I had heard stories, peripherally, through friends of friends about how having a child changes the relationship with your husband, how the idea that you are instantly in love with your baby is often romanticized and that all of a sudden your world becomes a whole lot smaller for awhile. I tried valiantly to ignore this, reasoning with myself that those are things that happened to other people and my experience would be different; all the while the impending truth gnawed at that place of uncertainty just below the surface.

When my water broke Este and I made our way to Victoria General Hospital, both awash of nervousness and excitement. We arrived at Labour and Delivery and although my labour had just started the contractions were very intense. I remember reading that early labour was gradual and felt more like uncomfortable gas pains and this felt anything but. All I knew was that these “rushes” as contractions were described as in Spiritual Midwifery were not anything close to orgasmic but more like what Amy Phoeler’s  exclaimed in Baby Mama: “It feels like I am shitting a knife!”

I labored for twenty four hours of back labour. I was begging for an epidural at three centimeters dilated and felt like punching every nurse that told me to use the gas to get me through my contractions. I sat in the shower, sat on the ball, rocked on all fours and lay in my bed praying for the waves of pain to end. I questioned myself many times wondering if I wasn’t trying hard enough as thousands of mothers did this naturally and without drugs every day.  Finally when the one hundredth person came in to check my vagina (seriously, everyone and their dog was up in there) and confirmed that I was ready for an epidural, they actually asked me, in all seriousness, if I still wanted one. Was this guy fucking kidding? I wanted one six weeks before going in to labour. Jack me up!

After the epidural I was feeling SO much better but became stuck at nine centimeters dialated . After a few hours the doctors told me Ali’s head was too big and was stuck on the one centimeter lip of my cervix and I should probably start to consider a C-section as she was getting tired. I don’t know about you, but after twenty four hours in labour, the most intense pain of my life and a feeling of anticipation like you wouldn’t believe, I wasn’t concerned anymore about getting a badge for squeezing my kid out through my box. I was quite content to keep that area perfectly in tact and go ahead with the C-section. Sign me up (and feel free to take a little extra while you’re down there)!

So they prepped Este and I and off we went to the OR. Ten minutes and a pair of forceps later they held Ali over the curtain and Este and I started sobbing. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe he and I had made her and that she was finally here. Poor thing was so beat up; her nose was squished to one side and she had a big bruise over her eye and forehead from the forceps. She looked like a baby boxer (fighter not dog). They popped her on the scale and she quickly became “famous” for being the ten pound baby on the unit.

They finished sewing me up and wheeled me in to recovery where the overwhelming barrage of change began and didn’t stop, if I am being honest,  for a good twelve months after. I sometimes feel bad that Este and I weren’t better parents to Ali when she was a baby. We were not as present and fucked up constantly given that we were new at it and had no idea what we were doing. I learned a lot of things after having Ali, definitely to Carlitos’s benefit. I try not to spend too much time there as I know it is no use living in the past. I can only do my very best for both my treasures today and I try to keep that in mind when they are driving me bonkers! It’s not as if the changes stop but you become better equipped at dealing with them.

Fast forward to today and my baby Ali is four and a half years old. She is starting Kindergarten in September and it feels like just yesterday Este and I were loading her into the truck to take her home from the hospital. I never understood the breadth of what it meant when people said “time goes by so fast” until I had kids. It seems it is going at warp speed these days.

There are many changes on the horizon for my little Ali and she is experiencing them in all of her feeler glory. She is going  to a new school in September for Kindergarten and a new daycare for before and after school care. We have talked a little about this already and it has proved very upsetting to her. As part of the preparation for Kindergarten, her daycare class is phasing out naps and we have also decided to begin the arduous task of phasing out her bringing “big this” to school. These changes have made her anxious and needy resulting in more visits to our bed at night, more crying and more hypochondria  as she deals with  feeling vulnerable. Although I know all of this is normal, it kills me to see her go through the angst and I would give anything to shield her from all of it. But, you can’t avoid life. My hope is that going through these transitions will make her stronger and more able to face challenges that will inevitably arise as she grows older.

I am so proud of the person Ali is becoming. She is caring, kind, compassionate, bright and funny. Her ability to sense emotion and react with unprecedented empathy continues to blow my mind. I am so incredibly blessed to have a child with such a beautiful heart. Ali, I love you more than words could ever adequately express.

baby ali

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Throwback Thursday

On May 18, 2012 I was 34 weeks pregnant and on bed rest. I had been on bed rest since about the five month mark due to Pelvic Dysmorphia Syndrome which is essentially your ligaments pulling away from your pelvis. If you are thinking that sounds extremely painful you would be correct.

At 28 weeks I went for an ultrasound and they noticed that my cervix had shortened to half and I was told I was at risk for preterm labour. There were a lot of words thrown at Este and I like cerebral palsy, beta shots, weekly ultrasounds, non-stress tests etc. Basically we were told to take it day by day with the goal of “making it” to 35 weeks.

Cut to May 18th, 2012. After weeks of strict bed rest, meals on wheels from family and countless hours of tv, my water broke at 1:00 pm in the afternoon. I remember I was lying in bed with Ali trying to get her to nap as we had family coming over at five for my 31 birthday celebration.

I heard the tell tale pop and felt the subsequent gush and knew my water had broken. I called Este who freaked out, telling me to call 911 and I told him to calm down and meet Ali and I at the hospital as I was driving.

When we got there Labour and Delivery confirmed that my membranes had indeed ruptured and the whirlwind ensued.

We had a meeting with the maternity GP on call, an obstetrician and the head nurse who all lulled Este and I into a false sense of security. “Oh this is fine” they said “we are happy when babies make it to 28 weeks these days”. We were left with the choice of immediate c-section or I could wait a couple of days until I went into labour naturally and deliver vaginally with the risk of infection due to the fact that I was strep-b positive.

We were not willing to risk infection so we opted for the c-section.

At six pm they wheeled me out of my room in Labour and Delivery and into an operating theatre. Ten minutes after that they held Carlitos over the curtain and Este and I burst into tears.

He was beautiful and he was crying.

They took him off to the side while they started to put me back together. Este cut his umbilical cord and then they bundled him all up and brought him over to me.

I noticed right away he was having trouble breathing and his lips were purple. After what seemed like a split second with my son they took him away to the neonatal intensive care unit. Neither Este or I wanted our bean to be alone so we decided that Este would go to the NICU while the doctors finished sewing me up.

After I came out of recovery and was settled in my room on Mother/Babe I had the overwhelming urge to be with my son. Este wheeled me into the NICU and nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

My sweet Carlitos was on his tummy in an incubator hooked up to a CPAP machine to help him breath. He had leads on him everywhere monitoring his breathing, heart rate, sats etc. I started sobbing. This was not what I was expecting after our pep talk from the doctors prior to delivery. I wanted to hold my son and I couldn’t. All I could do was open a portal on the side of the incubator and rest my hand on his diaper. Because he was born at 34 weeks the nerve endings in his skin were extremely sensitive so the nursing staff advised against any rubbing or light touch.

The next few days were hell. I was in a shared room, alone, and I kept dreading the arrival of another new Mom and her babe. I finally asked one of the nurses to put my anxiety at rest and she replied “Oh honey, we would never put another mom in there with you when you don’t have your baby.”

I was relieved and devastated all at the same time. I sobbed for a long time as an artificial machine pumped my boobs so that my milk would come in and the nurses could start feeding Carlos through an nasal gastric tube when he was ready.

Before I was released three days later, the NICU staff informed Este and I that a nurse had accidentally given all of the colostrum I had tirelessly pumped to another baby by accident. I will never forget Este’s face. He just broke down under the stress and worry for me and our little bean.

Carlos remained in the NICU over the next seven weeks on CPAP, caffeine, monitors and nasal gastric feeding tubes. We, along with the NICU nurses, celebrated each new milestone together. It was a test of emotional strength for both Este and I as our little guy got stronger.

We have gone through months upon months of assessments with Queen Alexandra to ensure Carlitos is developing as he should. This past summer “he graduated” from the program as well as from his pediatrician. Those were huge milestones for him and for us.

Since he was born, Carlitos has always had respiratory issues. He was seriously ill with croup the September after he was born, seriously ill when we went to Argentina and we have endured countless trips to the ER, clinics and his family doctor over the past twenty months.

This past Tuesday Este took him to emerg as his never ending cough worsened quickly and he was struggling to breath. They advised us that this time it was not croup but a virus made worse by what they suspected to be asthma. It was suggested we see his family doctor as soon as possible to talk about some long term planning. Four hours and two inhaler prescriptions later the two of them were home.

Yesterday I was able to get Carlitos in to our GP’s office. The locum and I discussed Este’s family history of asthma, Carlitos’ many trips to the clinic, constantly being on antibiotics for lung infections and always having a cough that worsens with any viral or bacterial infection. She explained that it is hard to diagnose children under three but that this did sound like asthma and it was serious enough to warrant a referral to a pediatric specialist.

Today was day two of Carlitos running a fever. When he woke up this morning his temperature was 39.7. I alternated both puffers, Tylenol and Advil all day but he was writhing around on the floor screaming and crying. Back to the clinic we went. It seems his virus has turned into a bacterial infection.

Every time Carlitos gets sick I am taken right back to that horrible, helpless feeling I felt when he was in the NICU. Even though he is talking up a storm (by 20 month old standards) he is still unable to tell me what hurts or what I can do to help. It hurts my heart and sends me into the depths of anxiety.

Thank you for bearing with me through this long post. Some have it much worse, I know, and some have no idea what I am going through, but most people know what it is like to love somebody so profoundly you would do anything to take their pain away. That is what it is like with my kids. Whether it is Carlos and his lungs or Ali and her feelings; when they hurt, I hurt.

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Silver Lining: When Este got home tonight he told me today at daycare (he prefaced it with “today your daughter…”) Ali and Brucy were busted kissing in the romper room (side bar: what is it with my kids and getting busted kissing?! This doesn’t bode well..). Teacher Chianne told them that kisses were reserved for family to which Brucy replied: “We are family…she’s my wife.” Chianne, being the quick thinker that she is, said: “Oh you need a marriage certificate to be married”. Brucy then went and drew a “marriage certificate”, had Ali “sign” it and gave it to Chianne and said “See? We’re married.” Chianne had the last laugh though as she told Ali and Brucy that you had to be 18 to be married. They both just shrugged, said “oh” and went about their business.

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And A Big Brown Shark Came… [said in voice of Eddie Murphy]

I arrived home on Saturday night after being away for a week visiting my uncles in Toronto. To say I needed it would be the understatement of the year. I was totally spoiled – for seven days I ate amazing food, drank great wine, watched interesting tv and movies all while spending time with two of my favorite people. Did I mentioned that I slept in until ten everyday? Yes, a total lazy whore.

There is nothing like a little distance to put your life in perspective. I missed Este and the kids terribly and realized that a week is the longest I could go without them.

Sunday was busy and somehow Monday was upon us before I even blinked.

I had just come from an appointment with my surgeon where he told me a) everything was looking great, b) I could go to wearing elasticths (elastics said in voice when wearing elastics) half time, c) that I could start running again AND d) that he had found my blog through a mutual friends Facebook page and thought it was funny! I cannot even tell you how much respect and admiration I have for this man who has provided me the most exemplary customer service while changing my life (go back and review the before pictures and you will be reminded…pluck an apple through a picket fence kind of reminded). A compliment from someone other than friends or family is always nice as it is unsolicited and totally honest. Fist pump.

I was riding high after that appointment!

When I finally got to daycare to pick up the kids they were so happy to see me. It is the BEST feeling when you walk in to a room and your kids faces light up at the very site of you. We made our way home and had leftover Chinese food for dinner.

I don’t know why I forget how much I hate cleaning up the aftermath of Chinese food. There was rice everywhere. After dinner Carlos ate about a pint of raspberries and I didn’t think much more about it until later.

After an epic shakeout of rice and noodles the kids were naked and ready for the bath. Everything was going great – there was lots of laughing and splashing and then all of a sudden Carlos said “I toot”. This sent Ali and I into peels of laughter as he had never said that before.

And then Ali paused and looked slowly down towards Carlos’s direction…

Ali: “Mom? MOM!!!!! Carlos! Carlos is pooping in the TUUUUUUB!”

Me: “Oh fuck.”

Ali: “Ewwwww! It’s coming towards me! MOM!”

So now I am scrambling to get Ali out of the tub, Carlos out of the tub while simultaneously gagging as I stick my hand in the water to pull the drain.

It’s all fun and games until someone shits in the tub.

I finally got the kids down and wanted to go and hide at the thought of the rice paddy in my kitchen and shit in the tub that were waiting for me

Many gags later all was as it should be and I was spent. I put on my jammies, crawled into bed and was dead to the world until six this morning.

Did Tuesday relent? Well, Este is currently in emerg with Carlitos who has a fever and croup.

We shall see what hump day has to offer…

Before…

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After…

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PS I went for my first run today in four months and it was fucking awesome!

Follow Your Heart All The Way To The Door…

I have been home for the past two days with Ali who has a lung and throat infection. When she came in to our bed in the wee hours yesterday morning complaining of a sore throat I figured it was her usual attempt at not going to daycare. My alarm went off at six and as I went to get ready my little bean was quick on my heels all sleepy-eyed and haggard insisting that her throat “really, really hurt”. I took a look inside her mouth and was honestly astonished that she could even breath as it looked like there were two ping pong balls on either side of her throat. She was definitely sick.

We ventured to the clinic that afternoon to confirm that she had swollen glands and throat in addition to some kind of lung infection. Off to the pharmacist we went to pick up antibiotics and then home to snuggle and watch movies. This is how we have spent the majority of the past twenty four hours.

A favorite movie of hers right now is Disney’s newest, Frozen; it is a close second to my favorite Brave, but she is obsessed.  We have probably watched it four or five times in the last two weeks, so much so that I am beginning to know all of the words to each song. Good thing this is a movie where they are somewhat bearable.

Anyways, those of you with small kids who watch Disney movies incessantly will know that there are three major themes that seem to pop up over and over: following your heart, finding your true love and overcoming adversity. Blah, blah, freaking blah blah.

I didn’t realize how skillful Disney is at permeating the brains of our young ones until it smacked me in the face this afternoon.

Me: “Ali, can you take this container and put it by the front door where the recycling is?”

Ali: “No Mom.”

Me: “What? What do you mean no? I asked you to please take it so do so now…”

Ali: “Mom, I told you no. I am following my heart and my heart doesn’t want to take out the recycling. It is really importnant to follow your heart Mom. It really is.”

*Stunned Silence*

At this point I am trying so hard to keep from laughing uncontrollably and also cursing her lawyer mind (just like her father) for actually making an argument that is hard to counter. Thankfully I had my parent cap on and dashed those dreams immediately.

Me: “That’s great that you are following your heart my love but  it’s probably a good idea that you take that recycling to the front door right  now.”

Ali: “Ok Mama. But when someone is following their heart it is very, very rude to make them take out the recycling.”

Me: “I’ll keep that in mind.”

As she walked to the front door with the empty jar of pesto sauce I could hear her singing “For the first time in foreverrrrrrrrrrr, nothing’s in my waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!”

She is SO one for the theatre.

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The Fucking Fours

When Ali was one people warned me about the terrible two’s. The two’s arrived and so did her will; her very, very string will. This was met with lots of tantrums as we both navigated her new found independence and string sense of self.

During the terrible two’s fellow mothers started to warn me about the tyrannical three’s. Picture all the head strong independence of the two’s with an exponentially larger vocabulary and fine tuned arguing skills.

It seems we have now arrived at the fucking fours. My friend coined this “developmental stage” and I always thought it was a hilarious exaggeration until my child entered it.

Fuuu-uk.

It is as if I am living with a teenager. A sassy molassy, Judy Attitudy, straight-outta-Mean-Girls, Regina George type of teenager. If this is what four is like I am terrified of what Ali will be like at twelve with hormones coursing through her veins.

It used to be that when I picked my little bean up at Dragonfly’s she would stop everything, run over and wrap her arms around me. Now I am met with a sigh AND an eye roll before the “Mom, I’m too BUSY!”

Everything these days is an epic battle with all the rising action of a good Broadway play (well, maybe off-Broadway). And she is honing her skills. Oh she is honing them alright. We will be in the midst of a discussion or negotiation and she will feel she is losing so start with “Ok but can I just tell you something?” and then follow it up with the Dane Cook tic tac of a comment that goes something like this: “The other day when you said you wouldn’t cuddle me it hurt my feelings and that’s not very nice Mama.”

I am wise to this trick which usually means things escalate and she resorts to yelling which yields a time out. At this point she starts bargaining to not go in the time out: “I’m gonna listen. I’m gonna LISTEN!”

I hold my ground and then she digs deep and pulls out her best Meryl (like Kramer vs Kramer Meryl). Cue the most dramatic crying face you’ve ever seen and this: “Mom I’m sorry and I just love your heart.”

BOOM. DONE. MIND FUCKED BY A TODDLER.

*sigh*

The ridiculous part is I know it is happening every time and it is like I am powerless to stop it! After I break down and give her a hug her fave pixelates like T1000 and she is on to the next thing without a single tear having been shed. She is truly a master.

I have never wanted to pull my hair out so much while simultaneously being overcome with how much I love her.

I am happy she has a strong sense of sense; truly, for that I am thankful. But god damn if it doesn’t grate in my lady nerve!

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A Year in Review

Man, for some reason blogging was so effortless when I was on mat leave. I had endless stories coming from the daily material provided by my monkeys…mostly my oldest monkey. I have found the transition back to work to be difficult as is evidenced by my lack of writing.

I have decided that 2014 is the year I discover who I am in this new chapter of my life.

I am a working mother. What does that mean? I’m not really sure yet. Like many of you it means I am short on time. This is my reality so I need to reevaluate what is important and let everything else go. I am learning to balance where I have to be with where I want to be and it is a work in progress. My hope is that I find fulfillment in both.

Somehow I blinked and Ali is four. Este registered her for Kindergarten on Monday and it felt surreal. My Carlitos will be two in May and is not a baby anymore but a little boy more and more every day. I am definitely mourning the loss of these baby days while I look forward to what is to come. It is a strange juxtaposition.

This past year has been a series of highs and lows. I have been candid about my struggle with depression and this past year was a real test of emotional strength. Transitioning off anti depressants was extremely difficult but I am managing and managing pretty well. I am working hard at making a conscious effort to make deposits to my recovery account. This translates to getting enough sleep, meditation, therapy, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Being present is a full time job in itself but the payoff is huge so I keep plugging away. Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I am working on becoming excellent at self care.

I will be honest, I still struggle regularly with anxiety and am constantly trying to manage it in my day to day life. Sometimes it is tempting to go back on meds but then I remember that with the lows also come the highs. It is nice not to be flat all the time. Plus, if I’m being really honest, I am loving sex again! For those of you familiar with anti depressants you will know immediately what I am talking about. They annihilate your sex drive. Zac Efron (don’t judge me) could be standing in front of you and you would be like “I’m tired”. I shit you not.

This year has also been extremely challenging for my marriage. After reading that last paragraph you are probably thinking “no shit, Sherlock”. All joking aside, I am so thankful that Este and I have had the courage to have our own difficult conversations. It has broken down the barriers and created an honesty that didn’t exist before. It is liberating to be in a position where there are no sacred cows. To be equals and come together as partners to tackle our life as a team has made a huge difference in how we communicate.

My hope for this year is that I continue on this journey of self discovery and take the time to share the little things that make my life unique yet so relatable. There are many experiencing similar situations and I know from personal experience reading about someone else going through the same thing is beyond comforting.

Community is huge. Community is everything.

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