Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Poet photographer

Around this time last year, a friend held an unofficial sonnet-writing contest over Google +.  I didn't intend to participate, seeing as I don't know a sonnet from a limerick, but that's what happens when your only upper-year English class focused on Norse mythology. If it had been a saga identification quiz, I'd have had it made, unless contestants were expected to spell.

A couple days later, I came across this tree: back-lit in the morning sun, flaming orange, and me without a camera, or, let's face it, the skills, to capture what I see. Struck with desire to preserve that moment of beauty, I tried to do with words what I couldn't do with film. Mere letters couldn't do justice to the details of the scene, but I hoped at least to convey that which had me grasping for photography equipment in the first place. I spent my next few preschool drop-off and pick-up walks counting syllables, selecting adjectives, caving to my urge to alliterate. I wrote a haiku.

It was my first time voluntarily writing poetry since the tail-end of grade school, half a lifetime ago. I enjoyed it so much I did another one for a winter scene through the Groat Road ravine, though Blogger tells me hardly anyone read it. I'd meant to do a set for all four seasons, but, like many of my intentions, that clearly didn't happen.

Nevertheless, it's fall again; my choice season for beginning. I'm posting my original haiku, with a nice meaty chunk of prose to trick you into reading it. Bwahaha.

leaves of molten hue
illumined in slanting sunlight
whisper of winter

Friday, 19 October 2012

"The waters and the wild"

The other week, I had a brush with fairyland. It was a coincidental stumbling: driving over the river, my eyes are by habit locked on the road in anticipation of twisting blind-cornered through the ravine beyond the bridge. That afternoon, in search of yet more autumn beauty, they wandered slightly to my left. A turn of the head, and I caught a ridge full of colour. The Saskatchewan's north bank, steeply climbing with trees leaved from amber to umber, was a phoenix reborn in the blaze of the sun. A breath-taking scene. At that moment came magic from the mechanics of my stereo, the King's Singers giving ethereal voice to the words of Yeats:

Come away, oh human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand...

I've enjoyed Whitacre's setting of "the Stolen Child" many times before, but never have I felt the urge to answer the faery's call. Had one come to pull me through my windshield, I don't know if I could have resisted. Thankfully for my back-seat passenger, no such nymph appeared. Common sense prevailed, and my eyes abandoned the ridge for the road to guide us safely home.

Ever after, when appointments or errands take me south of the river, I'll search that ridge upon my return. I rather doubt that constant vigilance can reproduce what chance once brought together, but a second glimpse of woodland sprite would be worth a thousand empty glances.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


every so often
I step outside in the cool of the day
and I stop

sometimes I feel a little silly
feeling refreshed over the compost heap
but there's something in the sharpness of a cold intake of air
that brings life to my house-warmed lungs
even among decaying vegetation

I'm told that those who fish for sport
cast their lines in northern pools
the lakes of warmer climes shunned
for their sluggish swimmers

cold water provides more oxygen
more energy
more life
to will a fish to fight
more fun for the fisherman
this vitality in his prey

back at the bus stop
the parking lot
garbage bag in hand
rancid fumes lose their fire
in the face of pure temperature
fall frozen, oxygen rises
as I channel my inner pike
and return inside
to daily bread

Monday, 15 October 2012

Because Monday is better with claymation

Upon leaving the house to meet the noon-hour school bus, I met with a pleasant surprise: for the first time in weeks, there was no need for jackets. My son and I spent the minutes we would have squandered in bundling strolling up and down the sidewalk, searching for crunchable leaves.

While waiting for kindergarten drop-off, I toyed with the idea of an afternoon walk, but my kitchen told another story. A pile of dirty dishes and a pack of thawing stew meat were evidence enough of a prior engagement. I settled for sending the kids out to play, opening the windows, and blaring Fleet Foxes while I worked. There's something about their self-titled album that says "autumn" to me.  It's an eccentric and folksy record, and fall's jumbled array of colour speaks to me in similar terms. I find this especially true of "White Winter Hymnal", despite its title. The song has me wanting to jive into a hair-swinging dance, like the nameless twins in A Charlie Brown Christmas. The lyrics make for a rather disturbing juxtaposition, since I'm pretty sure they're about decapitated birds, but the video is so charming it's still worth a share.

Hope the weather where-ever you are gives a similar treat.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

No such thing as too many borscht recipes

Once upon a time, in another house, my husband made a fabulous pot of borscht with the produce of our massive garden. He'd found a lovely recipe online which involved cooking the beets with a whole slew of other vegetables to make a rich and vibrant stock, and varied it by adding the same contingent of carrots and cabbage and the like to the cooked beets and liquid for the final production. It was delicious, but sadly, never to be repeated, for the recipe was lost in the ether. And re-googling a term as popular as "borscht recipe" two years later is never a sound plan. Trust me, I tried.

As every second site the first two pages of my borscht google search told me, there are as many ways to make borscht as there are Russians/Ukrainians/Pols/Mennonites (which nationality depended on the website). Basically, if you've ever had a beet or cabbage soup made by someone whose ancestors once lived in Eastern Europe, it was probably called borscht. Furthermore, if you, the soup-taster, are also of Eastern European descent, said soup probably had you wondering why it did/didn't contain beef/pork/tomato/cabbage/anything other than beets. If the recipe for that soup made it on to the internet, as about half of them seem to do, it was likely labelled the "best borscht ever", and, as it was made by the author's grandma/oma/baba, that's subjectively right, because there's no arguing with food memories from your grandmother's kitchen.

Eventually, I gave up on finding any one recipe, and settled on making my own - and posting it too, because, clearly, borscht recipes are in vogue. I pulled on the collective memory of my husband and myself on our two-year-old borscht experience, the current contents of our fridge, the common seasonings noted from my internet research (namely dill, garlic, pepper, allspice, and vinegar), and my notions of what ought to be in borscht in the first place, i.e. how my grandma made it: chopped vegetables, no meat, a broth so intensely magenta it was almost opaque, served with a dollop of sour cream.

Here's what we came up with:

3 lb beets, well washed but not peeled, ended, and quartered if needed (i.e. if larger than a fist)
1/2 head savoy cabbage, chopped
3 large carrots, halved
2 onions, quartered
5-10 leak & scallion greens, washed & ended
1/2 cup celery leaves, roughly chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 tsp dill seed or several young dill stalks, washed & ended
1-2 tsp white vinegar
water to cover

Assemble all ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, for 1-2 hours or until beets are fork-tender. Remove beets and set aside to cool. Strain stock, squeezing excess liquid from veggies. Reserve stock and set aside.

2 tbsp olive oil
4 small onions, chopped
1 bulb garlic, minced
5-6 carrots, chopped
1 small head green cabbage, chopped
1/2 head savoy cabbage, chopped
Stock + 2-4 cups water
1 head bok choy, chopped
1 bunch beet greens, chopped
5 medium white potatoes, chopped
1 bunch dill weed, finely chopped
beets from stock, peeled & chopped
1 tsp each dill seed, allspice, black pepper
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt to taste

Heat oil in bottom of stock pot (don't bother washing it - that yummy beetiness is all going back in). Sauté onions, garlic, and carrots with dill seed, allspice, and black pepper until softened. Add cabbage and sauté a little more (approx 1-2 min). Pour in stock, add potatoes, bok choy, beet greens, and dill weed. Bring to a simmer. Peel and chop beets. Add to soup and bring back to a simmer. Add vinegar and salt to taste. Simmer, covered, 15-20 min more until potatoes are falling apart. Uncover, adjust seasonings, and remove from heat.

If time and appetite allow, let soup rest for an additional 15-20 minutes. It'll be even better the next day. Pairs nicely with a side of farmer's sausage, rye bread, and, of course, sour cream. Makes enough for several meals. Your freezer is your friend ;)

And there you have it: yet another borscht recipe for the masses. Feel free to adjust to suit your own tastes/fridge contents/family traditions. One of these days, I'll call up my grandma and see if I even came close. In the meantime, my freezer is stocked, and I managed to use up that bok choy before it went bad. Everyone wins.

Enjoy the soup season :)

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Wandering through architecture

It is a road I have walked hundreds of times, a lovely lost tunnel through the trees, busy this morning with birds and little shy rustling things, my favorite road anywhere.
-Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety

The fruits, or, rather vegetables, of our CSA share are available for pick up on Tuesday afternoons. Our farmer and his team drop off the goods for we, the shareholders of Edmonton's northside, in the backyard of a friend's house in the historic district of Westmount. This means that once a week I have a built-in excuse to stroll through one of Edmonton's best neighbourhoods on my way to pick up locally grown organic produce. Rather posh.

I must admit this pick-up perk played a little to prominently in my vote for this culinary investment. Westmount is known for its pre-war architecture, with the majority of its dwellings hearkening back to a time before the war effort caused folks to tighten their belts when building new homes, doing away with such frivolities as front verandas, dormer windows, and deep-seated eaves. It's my favorite era for urban meanders for personal, even more than historic, reasons; my familial home was built around 1912 in a neighbourhood of a similar vintage. Walking by the windows of my parents' veranda causes the scene seen through to waver: a street canopied by weathered elms with trolley tracks hidden beneath its pavement. Such buildings were the constant in my early rambles, they dotted my chosen bike paths, drew comment from my parents during family strolls, dominated my first, and only, paper route. It's a type of double nostalgia, reminding me both of the time Canadian prairie cities first became boom-towns, and when childhood surroundings began to be my own.

As Westmount is an entirely gridded community, I had originally intended to vary my route every week, taking advantage of as many permutations as the harvest season would allow. It was not many Tuesdays later, however, that my path was changing very little. It was as if my introverted nature prevailed upon my quest for novelty, almost subconsciously leading me to deepen my knowledge of a few choice houses rather than maintaining the passing acquaintance of many. Bowing to this grain of wisdom in my secret heart, I drank deep, memorizing details of craftsman stickwork and clinker brick, giving bygone drainage experts the nod for acutely peaked roof lines and over-hanging eaves. I grinned irrepressibly at each exchange with the weather-vein topped cottage, whose scarlet-curtained porch is just begging for a glamorous witch, and the modern residence kept strictly to the prevailing style, except for its walls of cerulean blue.

The produce I've carried home in my double jogging stroller has changed throughout the season, from field greens and garlic scapes to pumkins and potatoes. Next week marks our final pick-up and the end of term for my little architectural study. I'm far from a hundred treks along this summer's favoured path, but I look forward to renewing our relations come the spring. In the meantime, I may have found a reason to visit through the winter: the Duchess Bake Shop is but a stone's throw away. If the website's pictures do it any justice, the decor alone with be worth the journey. Why have I not been here before?

Happy ramblings, my friends.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Gimpy blogger

I'm currently suffering from a mild neck issue. My chiropractor told me the name (after she fixed the problem), but I've already forgotten it. As far I can tell, it's like two discs at the nape of my neck got into a lock-down fight and annoyed all their neighbours. She also told me that it's one of those things that could happen to anyone - in fact, it happened to her just last week. So no guilt for failing to mention that head-banging incident. It was the guitar solo in "Bohemian Rhapsody". According to Wayne's World, head-banging is practically required. No guilt whatsoever.

In the last two weeks, there have been three adjustments, lots of icepacks, more robax than I care to admit, and very little of the normal duties. Some are a little heartrending (ex. no picking up the toddler), others relieving (no dishes - yay!), but what's been most baffling is that all the sedentary activities I associate with "taking it easy" all make it worse. There has been very little smartphone time or computer time, and as much as I'd love to curl up on a soft chair with a hardcover novel, even getting into position is a problem. 

I can't help but appreciate the irony of my hurts-to-read dilemma coming on the heels of finishing The Information Diet. It's akin to coming down with a nasty case of heartburn just after thinking about cutting back on Indian food. The theoretical quickly becomes practical when every bite brings the promise of fire. The question is less 'is this samosa worth the calories?' than 'is it worth the pain?" And so I must ask about every article, as I convalesce, and every comment stream. And by 'must', sadly, I mean 'should' - let's just say it's a good thing I don't suffer from heartburn and an obsessive love of curry. Mmmm butter chicken. But I digress.

I let my held hardcover copy of A Dance with Dragons go back on the library shelf, unread. Good. I perused through a month's worth of memes on the Facebook page Time to thin the herd. Not so good. I pulled out my Bible for the first time in weeks months. Very good. I read through all of the Blogess posts surrounding the difficulty in getting a picture of Nathan Fillion holding twine for, you know, context. Very funny, but did I really need to do it in one big binge? No. While hunched over my phone in the chair I should probably be avoiding? Definitely not. Is my impulse control wont to note the difference between authentic coconut curry and cumin dusted twinkies? Not always. 

Maybe I should make a chart where I compare acquired neck pain to the relative worth of my literary munchies. Though measuring written materials in terms of Indian cuisine would soon prove difficult, it would have the delicious side benefit of required tastings to make sure my choice dishes are accurate. What is the culinary equivalent to the book of Baruch anyways? I'm going with palak paneer, but I'd need to order it again to make sure. On second thought, this could be bad for our eating-out budget. Excuse me while I order some naan.

On a side note, I wasn't just head-banging to Queen, I was head-banging to Rajaton doing Queen. Which is even better. And I didn't just link to "Bohemian Rhapsody" either, because the only thing that adds to the equation of Queen plus Rajaton is David Bowie. Once you wrap your head around the fact that all these sounds are being made with people's mouths (with occasional help from Mr. Reverb and friends), the fabulous lyrics of "Under Pressure" really shine through. 

Enjoy. Or, alternatively, don't - because your attention is precious, and not every one thinks Freddy Mercury is worth the informational calories. Stepping away from the neck wrenching machine now, honest.

Happy Wednesday

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

"The fairest of the seasons"

"Fall is our season of filling up and overflowing."
                                  -Glennon Melton, State of Our Union - Momastery

Due to some lack of communication leading to a missed deadline, my freshly-minted kindergartener is not yet taking the school bus, so my weekday mornings begin, much like last year, with getting her to school. Instead of walking buddy, however, this year I'm playing chauffeur. The houses zip by too quickly merit much observation, so I've taken to watching the treetops during my driving duties. And what a treat it's been.

Though fall has always been my favourite season, I don't believe I've ever payed such close attention to the death throws of chlorophyll; the transition from full-out green to a myriad of yellow, orange, and red always seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. It was as if one day I'd look up and discover that summer's green had vanished, replaced fall colours in full array. This year, as my daughter's advent of school has left me ripe with anticipation for summer's end; I've been watching the microsteps, and have been pleasantly surprised in the variety I see.

Some trees lightened slowly, with paler greens and yellows dappled throughout more livelier foliage. Others seemed to suffer from sunburn, with full-out chlorophyll loss on the canopy trickling down to the trunk, or a toasting going from right to left along its branches. And every so often I do come across a tree that seems to have uniformly changed colours at the switch of a light,  even if it's the same species of all of its slowly transitioning neighbours. I don't know what causes these variations (perhaps a difference in the root systems?), but I love the effect: that one burnished accent tree highlighting the lesser extremes of the spectrum that surround it. Makes me smile everytime. Add a ray of sunlight hitting it at just the right angle, and that tree just glows. It's enough to make a girl forgive the sun for shining right in her eyes as she maneuvers through the morning's rush-hour traffic. How is it that the angle of light that most annoys me is the one that makes this magic?

Autumn is here. My calendar - and my daughter - will tell me it's technically still summer, but the trees say otherwise. And I tend to trust their judgement. Enjoy :)

Saturday, 8 September 2012

For my Grandma, in loving memory

I meant to publish this post to mark the fortieth day since my grandmother's passing on July 28th. Those who are quicker at math than I will note I am two days late. My apologies to my family if I've gotten any details wrong - please let me know and I'll correct them.
There was a little woven knick-knack that sat for years on a shelf at my grandparents' farm house. It was a simple thing, yarn threaded through a plastic frame, which, as first glance, depicted only a series of red geometrical shapes on a white background. If you changed your focus, however, you would soon see that white was actually meant to be both border and foreground, spelling out, in clear block letters, the name of Jesus.

I remember my Grandma much like that woolen piece, quiet and unassuming, homey and dear, but with an unwavering love and a firm faith that was clear to see, if only you knew how to look for it. I don't recall her saying many "I love you"s, though I never much noticed the lack. Her love was something done so often it hardly needed to be said. It was there in her letters, one for every birthday card, in her skill for choosing just the right book for Christmas, in her afternoon teas - complete with games and goodies - there in every hug.

Grandma didn't save all her treasures 'til the end either; she distributed what keepsakes she had years ago, each with a letter detailing whatever she could remember of that particular memento's significance. The real treasures, of course, were the stories, little windows into our own family history. From the exciting tale of Grandpa subconsciously nabbing a cross from a battle-strewn graveyard as a soldier in the Second World War, to the box where my great grandfather kept his stamps, each grandchild got their own piece of our past, a little something to help us remember a bit of where we came from.

My fondest memory of my Grandma happened when I was a pre-teen, during one of her and Grandpa's regular visits to my parents home. Over the years, Grandma had developed the crafty habit of scheduling various doctors appointments, not in nearby Weyburn, but in Regina and Saskatoon - an hour and four hour drives from the farm, respectively - just to have frequent excuses to stay with her children and their families.

Such stays were invariably precluded by a crash course in remedial manners, for my Mom wasn't about to have her loving yet very proper mother-in-law suffer any rudeness from her grandchildren. And so, when I saw Grandma sitting alone in our living room, tattered mystery novel in hand, I figured the polite thing to do would be to sit down and talk to her. She patiently listened to me prattle on a few minutes until she found a space to interject: "Now, I'm really enjoying talking to you, Rachel," she said gently, "but I just started this book in car on the drive down, and I'd like to finish it, because I don't quite remember how this one ends." Relieved, I got my own book and sat down across from her, delighted to join in the peculiar habit among my Dad's adult relatives of driving several hours only to sit in the same room together and read.

I think of that exchange often, when reading in companionable silence, and particularly when I pick up a book I've read many times before. Returning to a well-loved book is akin to watching the cycle of the seasons: you can take comfort from the familiar storyline even as you delight in the details you've forgotten since the last go 'round. I look forward to the day my memory's faded enough to rediscover the conclusions of my own favourite whodunits.

Memory eternal Grandma. 'Til we read together again.


I'm trying something new today: blogging on my phone, from a park bench. The children have been playing well together on their own for months now, but I've only recently started taking them to playgrounds again. That picture of motherhood in my head - at least the one where Mom has a bit of relaxing me-time en plein aire as she watches her kids go down the slide - has finally come to pass.

My youngest munchkin meanders back and forth from the playground to the bench beside me. His sister happily runs around the structure, perhaps in search of new playmates to order around in whatever game is currently on tap in her imagination. Her creativity is no surprise - she's been hatching grandiose schemes for years. This outgoing side of her nature, however, is relatively new, and her willingness to make spontaneous friends still leaves me blinking. It's hard to believe this friendly, if somewhat bossy, child was once the babe who met every smile with a custom 'who said you could look at me' glare. It's as if, after extensive observation, she's got enough of her world figured out to stride forth with confidence - sometimes even abandon.

Today, it seems she's settled for her brother's company. It's just as well, kindergarten comes full-swing on Monday, taking 3 hours out of sibling play time. Next week, I may have one lonely little boy in the mornings - and maybe a teary Mommy to boot. I'm sure we'll figure out how to handle it, just as I'm sure his sister can tackle kindergarten, but this milestone brings its bittersweet twinges all the same.

I'm so proud of my girl whose matured so much, come so far, yet I'm nervous lest her extreme particularity cause trouble for her teacher and create conflict with her classmates. That stubborn streak will come in handy if someone ever offers her meth - I've got this ridiculous vision of her turning down a dealer because his wares don't come in dark pink with dark blue sparkles - in the mean time, she still needs to learn that knowing exactly what you want down to the colour of your underwear doesn't mean you're always going to get it.

I'm relieved, for I've made it through nearly five and a half years of being her primary caregiver, and now it's over - and we're both still here. I will, of course, continue to be her mother, but with teachers now sharing the load of character building, child minding, and educating, the onus isn't solely of me. At the same time, I feel loss, for we'll never have such swaths of uninterrupted time again; it's the next big step in the ongoing process of letting her grow up and learning to let go.

Her first trial day of kindergarten happened last Wednesday. Leaving her in line with her teacher around the back of the school, armed only with a hug and a nonchalant wave, brought on this bittersweet emotional mixture. Now that staggered, small-group entry makes way for the first real full-class morning, I'm sure I'll be feeling it more, but not letting it show, because for my not-so-little beauty, it's all a grand adventure.

N.B. I didn't write the entire post on my phone, and the playground trip actually happened yesterday, but, you know, artistic license and all that jazz ;)

Monday, 13 August 2012

The tentative horticulturalist

There's a many-trunked willow that dominates the wilds at the edge of our backyard. It's composed of nearly a dozen trunks extending from a flattened hub, lost under a carpet of self-laid mulch. For the sake of the crab-apple it impedes - and the neighbouring yard it invades - my husband and I cut down a few of its more slender limbs in a fit of impulsive pruning, littering our patch of lawn with canes, leaves, and branches in the process. It's been weeks, and we're still puttering at the clean-up, now very much aware of the work that remains to be done if we ever hope to tame that tree and reclaim the "lawn" beneath its reach. The next round of Friesens vs. tree will probably involve at least a chainsaw, if not also a crew of professionals.

The horticultural exercise had me wondering if the only difference between a towering tree and sprawling bush is time and opportunity; with no competing mega-flora to stunt its growth, our willow had grown outward as much as upward. Saw and pruning sheers take up the task of artificial forest, creating relentless firm reminders: "this is not the way for you to grow." Our super-shrub has proven a slow learner: every rainfall leaves a new crop of shoots peaking out of weathered bark, and I am ever pinching them off, lest our labours undo themselves by summer's end. Even the lopped off branches lying in front of our garage, still waiting to be bucked up into firewood, have sprouted. The futility of such energy is lost on the severed limbs; the concrete pad beneath, the concrete foundation behind, the yards between them and the nearest living roots do not deter. The will to live is strong in these ones. Or is it a stubborn refusal to die?

I've been looking at our wilds a lot of late. The cooling rains have brought relief from the heat, but not without the requisite swarm of mosquitoes. While the kids continue meander our small outdoors at will, I've fled grassy shade in favour of sterile concrete on the other end of our little backyard. I no long sit under the willow and mentally rip out the patio along the back of the house; instead, I set my camp chair against said house and take in the view from the opposite end, re-landscaping with my mind's eye. Some days, I chop down trunks ruthlessly, clearing prairie grasses, clovers, and seedlings alike to make room for raspberries, rhubarb, and maybe something purely floral.

Other days, I abandon our neighbourhood to nature. How long would it take that willow and its volunteer cohorts to take over all traces of civilization? Would that army of Manitoba Maple shoots - friendly fire from our neighbour's tree in return for the fuzz from our willow - prove viable competition if no determined homeowner was around to routinely pull them up? Where would the line of woods to prairie meadow lie? The grass and weeds spreading from the lawn, potatoes and peppers mistaking the compost heap for a garden, the overgrown climbing vine, which is already invading our driveway from our other neighbours' fence, could all be the perfect ingredients for a northern suburban Angkor Wat. Or at least a fabulous permaculture experiment.

In the end, I know we'll have to take back at least some of the hinterland. As much as I muse about the romance of living out a variation of Tepper's The Family Tree, the reality of roots ripping through water pipes and crumbling foundations is just a little too feral for this unapologetic urbanite. But I do wince from time to time, as I snap off yet another round of foliage - it's almost a shame to see such rejuvenation cut short.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Unexpected intermission

There's a moat of concrete surrounding three-quarters of our house. I can only suppose it's a remnant of some 1950s house-building obsession - if you're out pouring cement for the foundation anyways, why not add a wrap-around patio straight out to your driveway while you're at it? Architectural cooling must not have been in vogue. No renovation since has touched it, however, so I'm left to hose down the hot slab in the relative cool of the evening, lest that lake of fire melt our house in the night. The chore leaves me feeling rather geriatric, not to mention environmentally irresponsible, but there's no way our little air-conditioning unit can compete with the heat retained in all those yards of man-made stone.

I find myself looking longingly at the back pad behind our garage - not to be confused with the paved lane in front of it - wishing it would magically turn into a garden. It's been laying fallow ever since we sold our second vehicle, but somehow I doubt anyone would be quite as willing to haul away a couple of unneeded parking spots to go along with our excess vehicle. For the time being, I must content myself with the bounty from my CSA share - a culinary adventure in seasonal vegetables without the work of a home garden - and my little potted flowerbed of six sunflowers, arranged along our south-facing patio. I have hopes that they'll eventually create a bit of shade for our dining room window, but my visions of sunlight filtering through wide green leaves will have to wait for late August; currently, their tops barely brush the top of the foundation and, thanks to this mid-July heat wave, they're a bit of a sorry sight. I've been bending the "don't water in the heat of the day" rule, pulling sun-warmed refreshment out of the kiddie pool to sooth drooping leaves in hopes that they'll last through yet another blazing afternoon.

Spring has melted into summer, and my little hobby blog has lain dormant. I'd like to say it's because I've been busy - and there have been days (and weeks) when that has been true - but that isn't the whole story. It would be more accurate to excuse my absence in claiming that my mind has been set mostly to absorb and rarely to create.

There have been celebrations: three weddings, our sixth anniversary, mother's day, father's day, school wind-ups. Many friendships to cherish, loves to laud, family to visit, and milestones to honour - life has been full. I had the honour of acting as a bridesmaid in wedding number three, and it was just as lovely and exhausting as the first time I had such a pleasure, lo these seven years past. There's something quite unique about the community that springs up among members of a wedding party; it's a joy to see the shared love and regard for the happy couple and collection of fond memories bring even strangers together, if only for a day.

There has been music: my husband has the curious habit of ordering me the odd CD he thinks I'd like and then calling it a gift for whatever present-giving occasions have passed in the weeks (or months) of waiting for it to ship. I've received two such albums in the couple months: the works, respectively, of Eric Whitacre and the Art of Time Ensemble. I have no words for these creations, only a deep appreciation for the way they enliven my right frontal lobe, just along the Elizabethan hairline; a phrenologist would have a field day. I smile slow and hit repeat.

And finally, I have been reading. My chilly corner office has become quite the little hotbox now that winter's dead and gone, and carting my laptop out into the realm of my munchkins is precarious at best. I've mostly abandoned it in favour of my iPhone for online articles and blog posts (it makes for a smaller target in the land of tossed toys and spilled juice), and have delved into the old-fashioned world of board and paper books. There's enough of the academic left in me wishing to promote my musings on my more high-brow literary material, but for the most part I've been indulging in George R. R. Martin's oh-so-popular "Game of Thrones" and its sequels. It's been years since I've lost myself in a fantasy series - I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the weave of several narratives through the rich landscape of an imaginary world. The interchange of multiple storylines gives me time to think up my own versions what happens next to my favourite narrators before the author picks them up again. I invariably prefer the author's conclusions, which is probably why I have no desire to write an actual novel, but I enjoy the mental exercise all the same. Fun for me, but not so useful for blog fodder. If, however, anyone would like some ideas for happily-ever-after twinged fan fiction based in Westeros, look me up. Redemption, reunion, and justice await many now-dead characters from the Song of Ice and Fire. And yes, I'm aware that my inner geek is showing.

Do I have hopes for improvement? I'd like to think so. I've missed composing my little musings. I miss the way they change how I look at the world - the beauty that appears only when I make a habit of seeking it. Preschool has ended, and with it my daily meanders; I don't doubt the correlation between my lack of locomotion and my dwindling blog output. I don't know why, but my brain seems to work better when my feet are moving. Perhaps it simply gives me something to see and the time to absorb it. For the next several weeks, I have gained a new regular, if less frequent, pedestrian excursion: my CSA pick-up spot is a comfortable walk away, providing a good half hour each week for observation and contemplation - hopefully it will prove fruitful. If not, please forgive the silence.

Keep cool, dear readers.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Rainbow linings

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain.

Guy Gavriel Kay has been known to quip that he wrote his Fionavar Tapestry just to publish that sentence and live to tell the tale. I may be more than a few threads short of tapestry - not to mention a few thousand words and a stroke of genius - but two day's worth of steady showers dared me to risk the derision of the blogosphere all the same: rain, rain, rain, rain, rain.

It was a good drencher, not a torrent headed straight for the gutter but a constant patter seeping slow into welcoming earth; the sort that brings forth seemingly immediate fruit in terms of grass and leaves and flowers. And that is the glory of a late May rain: each droplet's call brings an answering bloom, flowering April's leafy youth in a riot of colour.

Bright blossoms peaked out through the caragana's foliage, glimmers of the sunlight masked by overcast mystically present in the bushes. Lilacs buds clustered like so many miniature grapes, far more vivid than the paleness that still lay locked within. Flowering trees shunned the subtlety of shrubs, their greenery lost behind branch-long bursts of white, rose, and fuchsia. And down in the puddles sprang the labours of May-Long gardeners, cheery bedding plants joined hearty perennials drinking in the life-giving patter from above.

I've always found fault with the claim that each cloud bears a silver lining. I've seen my share of celestial shades - from brilliant white through dove grey to the foreboding charcoal of thunderheads - and deduced that clouds lack the luster to shine like any metal. And yet, by that second sopping day, I'd realized that a dark cloud cover can make for a fabulous foil; the gloomy skies lent vibrancy to the new-come hues below them. Heavy-laden with rain, the heavens brushed the tree tops, and so gained a rainbow lining from the bounty in their branches.

And I, umbrella in hand, drank in the sight and gave thanks for the gift of somber skies, for the flowers they framed, and for the rain.

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Safe to say "spring"

Last Monday morning, I pulled back the living room curtains to expose sun so bright my eyes dove downward. And what a sight they beheld: it may have taken two days of raking, another snowfall, and a few rain showers, but it was finally there - technicolour green, on my own front lawn. The emerald trend continued right down my street, as our preschool-bound jaunt soon revealed. My daughter and I strolled along with open jackets, and noted the new additions to the growing cohort of opening buds on bushes along the way. From here below, the trees still seemed bare, but the odd green haze proved that spring was making itself known in the canopy, whether I could see it or no.

Upon dropping the girlie at school, the voice from my stroller protested "no home!". With a breeze that coolly caressed without biting, I had no worries for his bare head and hands un-mittened, so I gave in to my toddler's impulse. We took the long way home, looping several blocks south before rejoining our normal northbound route. We were only a few meters closer to the downtown core, yet, here the neighbourhood's roots showed through more plainly. The gables and verandas so favoured by turn-of-the-century pioneers still stand, and while some are flanked by more modern oddities, they hold firmly to a nostalgic majority.

We switched sidewalks for the way home to where the pavement still remembers the old street names. I crossed the old Muskoka Avenue, wondering if it spoke of a long-gone city-planner longing for home. I check the next few cross-streets; Yukon, Okanogan, Pembina...maybe he was wishing to be anywhere but here? It's strange to think that such a central spot was once the edge of civilization, but so it was, and my own neck of the woods was a swamp - home only to bootlegger stills in the buffer zone between dry Edmonton to the south and wet St. Albert up the trail.

This week, the weather wandered like this blog post, dishing out sunburns and rain squalls, drizzles and downpours, often with less than an hour between. It brings to mind that old Connie Kaldor song:
Spring in the prairies
Comes like surprise
One minute there's snow on the ground
The next there's sun in your eyes
And the surprises just keep on coming, but trees keep quickening, so I think it's finally safe to say "spring". Or rather, if I don't dare now, I may miss it entirely.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Full circle

Now that I have told (ad nauseum) what happened on my daughter's original birthday, I can mention what happened on her fourth (i.e. last year): we moved into our current, and first-owned, home. I stopped feeling guilty about that one when I saw just how much fun she was having at her Grandma's with her brother and one friend whose parents came to help with the move. Last year, her birthday fell on Lazarus Saturday, so, had we not been in the midst of carting boxes and furniture across our neighbourhood, we probably would have been laying low in preparation of the marathon of Holy Week to come.

This year, we celebrated the birth of my firstborn on Bright Monday, the Eastern equivalent of Easter Monday - except it's the first of a whole Bright Week of post-Paschal celebration; in our house, we keep the feast by eating rich, eggy, pascha bread, sausage, and cheese for breakfast for as long as the goodies last. It's very relaxed, if not as healthy as the vegan fare of Lent we have been trying to keep to 'lo these past seven weeks. And, with the Pascha Vigil being celebrated in the middle of the night, I've kept up my parents' tradition of keeping kids home from school - and adults home from work - on Bright Monday, in hopes of resetting sleep-schedules and calming down after all the excitement before returning to life as usual. So my girlie got her birthday at home, meaning there was time for extra stories, and - thanks to a comatose brother - elegant nail-painting too. Next year, her birthday will be smack in the middle of the fast - Pascha follows the Jewish Passover (Pesach), which follows the phases of the moon, so the cycle's always a little fluid. But so we pass our lives, the mythical mixing with the mundane.

I have now been living in my seasonal sundial for just over a year. The shafts of sunlight have returned to the angles that so enchanted me when we just moved in, and the traffic noise, unhindered by snow or wintry pressure systems, has increased to the level that so vexed my quiet-loving husband. I had often wondered about those crazy people who buy houses on busy streets; now that I've become one, I understand at least one of the appeals: for us, it was a case of falling in love with a house we knew couldn't afford in a better location. That and the enormous windrow that hid our service road from the thoroughfare, leading us to believe the house was amazingly soundproof. By moving day, however, that seasonal sound-wall had vanished, leaving glass and siding sorely taxed in silencing the steady stream of traffic from the north, complete with frequent city buses and transport trucks fresh off the highway, all heading for the downtown core. Add appropriate vehicles for the nearby emergency services (all three of them), and a few schools, and my children are guaranteed plenty of practice in identifying cars, trucks, and buses of all shapes and sizes, colours and occupations.  Needless to say, it took some getting used to. This time around, we wait out the roar in peace, sure in the knowledge that each bud that graces our tree-lined street holds the promise of sound-muffling foliage to come.

I'm loath to yet name that post-winter season on such a public place as a blog, lest I trigger yet another dump of snow.  After all, both the equinox and April Fool's brought forth frozen precipitation this year, and, for those of us in the Eastern Christian tradition, Great and Holy Friday's somber rain turned to snow over the Sabbath night, clothing the world in Paschal white as the altar cloths inside our temple did the same. It was quite the way to greet the risen Bridegroom, yet I'm glad the weather interpreted Bright Monday as bright sunshine instead of more bright snow. I'm ready to take my light in technicolour, thank you very much. Snow may come, as long as it quickly goes, for moisture is still needed to tune our muted landscapes up to jewel-toned hues.

In the meantime, I will have to appease my winter-weary eyes with small patches of emerald, emerging, most likely, from spots of poor drainage, and the blossoms sheltered within my home. According to the potted daffodil drooping on my dining room table, the anticipated season is actually summer (unless I'm killing the poor thing - cool but sunny spots the toddler cannot reach are hard to come by in my house). And that equinox which brought snow outside also marked the unfurling of the first African violets my pots have seen in months. As far as my houseplants are concerned, winter is long gone. Looks like the sun is sending messages ahead of its time. And I am embracing that sun, with its steadily widening arc (minus the knee-jerk week post-daylight "savings" - but I've ranted on that subject already), occasionally indulging my inner cat by curling up in a sun-warmed spot - though I still haven't mastered the purring.

And I am still loving my home, despite the noise outside and the mess within, the pictures still waiting to be hung, the books still languishing in boxes while our bookcases over-flow with toys, diapers, and whatever needed to be kept away from a certain shorter someone, who, despite his ever-stretching reach, has yet to rid himself of the notion that all unfamiliar objects must surely be fit, if not for human consumption, then at least for destructive exploration. The fix-it list is ever-growing, but the plaster curves just as gracefully over arched doorways and the crown-molding in the living room still speaks of master craftsmanship. I'm still tickled to see my dream of an attic bedroom fulfilled in sloping ceilings of the upper story of our semi-bungalow; there's something magical about owning an older home, regardless of the increase in upkeep. Speaking of which, I should really go stick on the outside bit of our electronic doorbell. As in the doorbell that has been absent for over a year.

Happy belated birthday, house. I'm so glad we found you.

Monday, 16 April 2012

For my daughter, in honour of her fifth birthday

Throughout his novel "In the Beginning", Chaim Potok circled around the following theme: "all beginnings are hard." Giving birth to my first child certainly fit into that mold, and, strangely enough, so has attempting to write about it. It wasn't that her birth itself was traumatic or even disappointing, but I usually frame it as the birth that first led me to question the medical establishment, as compared to my son's birth, which made me want to be a midwife - hardly fair treatment for my beloved first born.  Though I don't want to forget the lessons that I learned from my first birth experience, I don't want to leave my child thinking she came into this world as a cautionary tale.

What's more, that child is a daughter, and, therefore (hopefully!) may one day be a mother, and that too pushes me to show a more balanced picture: birth can be hard, it can be a marathon, it can take you on turns you never expected, but, as a woman, you are so much stronger than that. Yes, it can stretch you, but you handle it. As much as hindsight shows the points where I should have said no, or at least have asked why, I do not ultimately feel that this birth was something that was done to me. It's still something that I did; in fact, it was one of the greatest somethings I did. And my daughter deserves to know that. So, without further ado, here is the story of my daughter's birth:

My first baby's due date was April 6th, 2007, which fell on Great and Holy Friday. Being practicing Orthodox Christians blessed with a parish that holds at least one service a day in the week leading up to Pascha (Easter), my husband and I had pretty much assumed that I would go into labour at church. My carefully packed labour bag spent the week in our trunk, in case we needed to leave straight from church to our chosen hospital. Given that said hospital was actually closer to church than to our home, it seemed like a sound plan. My daughter, however, is a girl who's slow to change, and she wasn't about to be rushed into the world for something as arbitrary as a due date. So I spent an uncomfortable and tiring Holy Week, sitting next to open windows, smiling thinly at yet another observation of "no baby?", but thankful to have somewhere to go and something to do other than sit at home obviously not contracting. Pascha came and went, and then I was back to sitting at home, without an agenda other than munching Easter goodies, still very much pregnant.

At my 41 week appointment, my doctor was pleased to announce I was 3 cm dilated. I now know that means diddly, but at the time it was pretty exciting - something was happening after all! Since I was on the table anyways, my doctor suggested we stretch my cervix to move things along. I wasn't exactly sure what she meant, but said okay anyways. It was probably the most uncomfortable and invasive procedure I've ever experienced, but I figured since a baby's head was going to be far larger than my doctor's finger I was best to get used to that feeling. Fortunately, I was wrong on that point. Unfortunately, my doctor's optimistic assumption that she'd be seeing me at the hospital over the weekend turned out to be less than accurate as well. With the ten-day mark coming on Monday, however, an induction was scheduled for 6am, so if there was no weekend baby after all, there would be one right after.

After my brief visit was over, I waddled across the parking lot, to a McDonalds, conveniently placed between my doctor's office and the bus stop. I'm afraid I'd become a regular customer over the last few months; the long bus ride home seemed somewhat more palatable with a drink and a little something greasy to keep me company. I had discovered that fatty foods did wonders for quelling the queasies back in my first trimester, and had never quit regular indulgence afterwards. Given that I was anticipating a baby in the next couple days, I figured a full meal was in order - even in was only four in the afternoon - so instead of grabbing something to go, I found myself a booth and settled into a burger and fries.

As I was munching away, I noticed a mild cramp in my lower back. In pre-pregnancy days, it would have been a sign of imminent menstruation, but those pains were usually constant - this one rose in a wave and faded off. Huh. About ten minutes later, it happened again. Was I in labour? Much as the weakness of said cramps would have implied to the contrary, after zero uterine activity for nine long months, I didn't see what else it could possibly be. Lumbar muscles tightening and relaxing of their own accord means back labour right? There it goes again. We have a pattern. Wahoo! It looked like that cervix-stretching ordeal had been worth it after all.  I called my husband at work to tell him the good news, and asked him to come pick me up when it was convenient. Mild discomfort was hardly worth rushing just yet, but the idea of labouring through public transit didn't sound like my idea of good time. I dawdled through the rest of my meal, waiting for my ride, and watching all the people who didn't know they were in the presence of a labouring woman.

My husband came soon enough and we headed back home. Not much had changed in the cramp/contraction area, so I suggested we make good on my mom's pre-baby advice of making some meals for the freezer. I'm pretty sure she'd meant that recommendation for considerably earlier in the pregnancy, but making a big pot of chili seemed like a good way to pass the time until we could go to the hospital. I hung out with my husband in the kitchen, pausing between sous-chef duties to lean on the counter and breathe through contractions. This coping method wasn't strictly necessary, but I'd read enough prenatal material to think that it was what I was supposed to do, and it made sure I could focus on what was happening to my body. The contractions had slowed down in frequency but picked up slightly in intensity; still, I found myself wondering what the big deal was about coping with labour. I'd had period cramps way worse than this. Eventually I managed to have two "contractions" only five minutes apart - that magic number that meant hospital time, right? Without waiting to see if the pattern repeated itself, or any thought to contraction duration, we dumped the labour bag back in the trunk and headed for the hospital.

By the time I'd gowned up in the antepartum unit, my little contractions had all but petered out. I lay on a ward bed, hooked up to the fetal and contraction monitors, under the gaze of a busy nurse, waiting impatiently for something to happen. After what felt like an embarrassing eternity, another contraction finally started. "Oh, here's one! See? Ow, ow, ow..." Now, I don't know anything about reading contraction monitors, but judging from the nurse's face, I'm guessing my performance measured in around "why is this woman wasting my time". I was curtly informed to head back home and not come back until the contractions were much stronger and consistently five minutes apart. So much for a Friday-night baby. We drove over to my in-laws, which was much closer to the hospital that our own place, to hang out for a while in case things picked up again, but eventually ended up going back home to rest up before what looked like a Saturday baby.

At some point during the night, the contractions moved away from being simply "there" to something that actually required some of those coping mechanisms I'd been practicing. The back tightness was joined by a clenching of my lower abdomen just above my pelvis - it felt like everything around my panty-line was pulling my thighs toward my belly. I climbed up onto my hands and knees - which helped immensely - and breathed until the clenching abated. Afterwards, I rolled over onto my side to see if it happened again. It did, but not for another twenty minutes. The next clench was similar, but came no sooner than the last. And so we passed the night - me rolling onto all fours every ten to thirty minutes, my husband staying by for support, and both of us trying to sleep in between contractions. Not much happened on the sleep front, and while the contractions didn't let up, they never fell into a consistent pattern either.

Eventually morning came, and we gave up trying to sleep and headed upstairs. The fourplex we were living at the time had an odd mix of a few small rooms along with a very long one on each level, so we'd made a living room/dining room split by using our couch as a divider. I discovered that morning that the couch was the perfect height for me to lean over if I stood behind it during a contraction. This gave my knees a break and also made it easier for my six-foot husband to apply pressure on my sacroiliac joints (i.e. the disc-shaped ones on either side of the lower spine) which really helped with the continuing back labour. And so we passed the day - me curled up on the couch reading until a contraction hit, at which point I rolled off the couch, hollered for my husband who met me at the back of the couch to help me deal. The contraction "pattern" from last night continued all day, never further apart than thirty minutes, never closer than ten. We tried a walk, but my chosen contraction coping mechanism didn't work nearly so well out in the open, and the trek only proved to tire us out all the more. No change, so no hospital, but no real break either.

Some good friends gave us a call to see how things were going - my mother-in-law had given the heads up the night before - and offered to help. My faithful husband came back with "can you bring over some food?" Being on call for contractions every ten to thirty minutes meant that making a meal was pretty much beyond him. We'd raided my carefully-packed labour bag, but there was only so many granola bars a sleep-deprived dude-la (i.e. male doula) can eat. Friends came, rotisserie chicken and salad kit in hand, and stayed to help put it all together. My friend, who's a maternity nurse, helped me through a few contractions while her husband took mine out for a walk. She cheerfully encouraged us to keep doing what we were doing and not to feel self conscious - if I wanted to moan, go ahead and moan! I remember thinking, "why would I be moaning? Are labouring women supposed to?" Clearly, there's some things you just can't get from reading a book. Our friends didn't stay too long, and soon we were back to business as usual, refreshed by the change of company and with food in our stomachs. Well, my husband's stomach at any rate - my tentative nibbles came back up again within a couple hours, so I stuck with juice boxes after that.

Night came again and still no change, so we went downstairs to try that sleep thing again. We met with little success; Saturday night was a repeat of Friday, except this time I needed my husband for more than just moral support to cope with the continuing back labour. Sunday passed much the same as Saturday had, and when evening came we called the hospital. The closest clocked contractions were still seven minutes apart, but we couldn't imagine passing another night like the last two. After that many hours of practically no sleep or food, how was I going to have energy left for the actual birth? We explained our situation over the phone and the nurse who answered recommended we come in to antepartum again to see how things were going. We repacked the labour bag and drove back to the hospital - a far more uncomfortable trip than last time - with no notion of whether they'd let us stay.

This time my body provided plenty of fodder for the antepartum contraction monitor. There was no suspicion of "cry-wolf" wimpism this time around. The internal exam, however, was far less encouraging. It turned out my two-day stint of hard but inconsistent labour had yielded only half a centimeter of extra dilation. I was afraid they were going to send me home again. I'm not the biggest fan of hospitals, but the hospital = baby equation was so firmly planted in my head that I felt like staying was the only confirmation that this baby was truly on her way. All the prenatal material I'd read had focused on the hospital part of the labour process. The idea that the majority of labour could happen at home was fairly foreign to me.

Then it happened. The fetal monitor went crazy. My baby's heart rate experienced a momentary partial deceleration. Just once and then back to normal. It could have been a hiccup. It could have been a sign that this long and latent labour was as hard on her as it was on me. But, as we were in a hospital with staff trained to prepare for the worst, that little blip that triggered an alarm was enough to convince the antepartum nurses that they should keep me overnight for monitoring, lest that partial decel be a sign of true distress to come. Given that the induction was planned for 6 am the next morning, it didn't really make sense to leave at this hour of the evening anyways, so I finally got what I'd wanted: hospital admission. I was given a bracelet and escorted to the labour and delivery unit and into a private birth suite - a spacious room with lots of windows, its own bathroom, and all the delivery equipment tucked discretely behind a curtained closet by the door.

My husband brought in my labour bag and stuck around while they hooked me up to the fetal and contraction monitor and set up my I.V. The nurses offered a shot of Demerol to take the edge off the contractions to help me get some sleep. I accepted, despite my original drug-free birth plan - well, maybe "plan" was too strong a word; it was more a set of vague notions that I hadn't managed to tell anyone about, not even my husband. It probably would have helped if I'd written them down. At any rate, I had no reason to believe we were anything but hours away from the birth, so I figured the drugs would have cleared my system by then. Plus I really, really wanted some sleep.

At some point during this process, my nurse pulled my husband aside and advised him to go home and get some sleep himself. While there was plenty of space to move around, there wasn't room to wheel in a cot, and my nurse assured him that with the Pitocin not starting 'til 6 am, it would probably be 7:30 before it really started to kick in. Much as it pained us to leave each other - having our first night apart since our marriage be the night before the birth of our first child didn't sit right - it was sound advice. He was just as beat as I was, and I'd need him again tomorrow. So I traded my dude-la for Demerol, kissed him goodnight, and settled in for what I hoped would be a restful night before the big day.

Unfortunately, my situation was not well suited to sleep. My IV was all prepped for a controlled-drip induction, meaning that the pole didn't just have a bag of fluid hanging from it, but an electrical contraption wired to the contraction monitor to ensure that the amount of Pitocin I'd be receiving would wax and wane with the strength of my contractions. Very smart. What wasn't smart was its bafflingly short electrical cord, nor the fact that said IV pole was on the opposite side of the bed from the contraction/fetal monitor. So, for all intents and purposes, I was chained to the bed; paddles on my belly attached to the monitor on one side, and the IV coming out of my arm on the other. This scenario was precisely why I hadn't wanted an epidural - well, that and the freak out factor of a sharp metal object being that close to my spinal cord. I couldn't get to the bathroom without calling a nurse. There was a sink just a few feet over from my bed but I couldn't get to it to refill my water glass without removing the monitor paddles. This was the first time I'd been hospitalized since I was born myself, so I unsure of what the appropriate etiquette was for a healthy "patient" in a maternity unit in relation to the staff. I felt silly calling my nurse to help me with something I should really be able to do for myself, but I was cowed enough by the medical equipment that I didn't want to risk breaking something just to make it to the bathroom my own.

My nurse's lack of bedside manner didn't help to put me at ease, or even feel comfortable with asking her to show me how to put the paddles back by myself. I could tell she was put out about having to do such simple things for me, but I couldn't think of another way around it. When I asked for water, she got me ice chips, and eventually cut me off of those too, assuring me that I was getting adequate fluids via the IV and that my stomach needed to be empty in case of a cesarean (who said I was having a cesarean?). I asked if she could get me my labour bag so I could grab some gum - I wasn't really all that thirsty, but all that breathing through contraction had left my mouth paper-dry. That was also refused, as it would cue the secretion of gastric juices, which again, would be bad news for that cesarean I wasn't having.

On top of these requests, I was also calling her in every ten to thirty minutes because the fetal monitor alarm was going off again. After a couple of such occasions I figured out that the fetal paddle was falling off my belly every time I got on my hands and knees to deal with a contraction - like I'd been doing at home for the two nights prior - and told her so the next time she came in to turn the alarm off. She looked at me incredulously and asked why I couldn't just lie on my back and take it. I had no idea what to say to that, but, as she quickly stormed off, I didn't have to think of anything. I had, however, noted which button she'd pushed to cancel the alarm, so when the next contraction came, I assumed my usual coping position and turned the silly thing off myself, listening to make sure the heart beat was indeed continuing as normal. It was, and it did - all night long - so I never had to call Nurse Battle-axe again. I even took the paddles off to get some more water and felt like a real rebel.

And so I passed the rest of the night in solitude - climbing onto my hands and knees to breathe through contractions, and trying to rest in between. I had pretty much decided the Demerol wasn't working, but, given that I wasn't missing the sacroiliac pressure that my husband had been providing for the last two days, it must have been numbing my back a little. I didn't notice at the time. Sleep continued to elude me - between the IV and the paddles that I wasn't quite brave enough to ditch completely, it was hard to get comfortable - so I took to praying instead. Nothing complicated, just simple calls for mercy and protection through the intercession of the Mother of God. She gave me something to focus on other than my fatigue, and, despite all the uncertainty, pain, and discomfort of this seemingly never-ending labour, kept me from despair.

I've heard many times since that day that all mothers reach a point in their labour where they feel like they simply cannot do it, just cannot go on. I must have come close, but I never quite reached that point - with either of my labours, actually. With cesareans dismissed out of hand (a side benefit of my spotty pre-baby research), I was left with the conviction that no one could birth this baby but me. This was my baby coming out of my body - a body that was made to do precisely what it was doing right now.  No one could step in and give birth for me. I had to do this myself, therefore I could. Failure was not an option. Along with this notion was an ever-growing awareness of being upheld in prayer - that of my own, supported by the intercession of the saints, and by the prayers of my friends, family, and church community in the weeks before I reached this point and even throughout my long vigil. So even though I had to do this myself, I certainly wasn't doing it alone - if that makes any sense. It sure did to me.

Eventually morning came, bringing sunshine streaming through a wall of windows, Pitocin dripping into my veins, and a new nurse on shift. If my night shift was Nurse Battle-axe, then this was Nurse Awesome. For the first time since entering the hospital, I encountered a staff member that didn't intimidate me. Nurse Awesome was cheerful, patient, informative, and flexible. I was so thankful to have her around for the actual birth. My well-rested husband soon arrived as well (kudos to Battle-axe for that one), alert and supportive. And good thing too - the Demerol had definitely worn off and the Pitocin was already kicking in. My labour induction had turned into a labour augmentation, and, after over sixty hours of flexing its muscles, all my uterus needed to kick into action was a faux-hormone nudge. I was too tired to get up on my hands and knees anymore for my lengthening and strengthening contractions, so I settled for lying on my side, speaking in short hand for when I needed back pressure. My contractions were finally getting consistently closer together - according to protocol, I was officially allowed to be taking up that bed I'd been occupying all night (the one side benefit of that lone partial decel).  Now I was ready for some moaning, and a little writhing, and toe clenching, oddly enough. My husband had to keep reminding me to relax my feet.

I don't remember getting checked, but there must have been a cervix measurement in there because all the sudden there was a couple extra nurses around and several attempts to get a hold of my doctor. I found out later she'd gone out for a run and forgotten her beeper. I was ticked at the time, but now that I know how long induced labours usually take I guess I can't blame her for thinking she had some time to kill. It was about 8:30 in the morning.

Active labour continued on like this for half an hour or so. At some point my husband realized he'd forgotten our music bag (I couldn't decide what I'd feel like listening to ahead of time, so I'd packed maybe 30 CDs or so and left them with the rest of our collection in case we wanted them at home before the birth), and called his dad to bring it over. My father-in-law popped in with it eventually and left right away - either he figured we'd want some privacy at that point or he'd read my mind about the "no males other than my husband" clause in my unwritten birth "plan". The bag lay forgotten at any rate; my contractions were close enough together that there wasn't much time for thinking much beyond another prayer.

The next thing I remember (my husband tells me it was about 9:15 am) was my nurse presenting me with pain relief options and then leaving the room to let us think about it. Once again, awesome. I don't think I could have collected myself enough to say no while she was standing right there waiting for an answer. As it was, I did consider pain relief for a couple minutes. I was pretty well convinced that the Demerol didn't work for me, so I didn't see the point in trying that again, and while I wasn't lucid enough to recall all the potentially permanent side effects of the dreaded needle-in-the-spine that I made up earlier on, the idea of staying perfectly still long enough for them to insert it seemed downright laughable. My contractions were coming every two to three minutes by that point and, though I wasn't moving much, I wasn't about to commit myself to motionlessness either.

At any rate, by the time my husband asked, "so what do you think?" I answered "I think I want to push." When Nurse Awesome returned, I asked if I could start pushing, and she said "let's check and see." The internal check revealed a mostly dilated cervix with a little lip left at the top, but my baby's head was right there. She suggested I try pushing with my next contraction and she'd try easing it out of the way. The back of the bed was raised a bit, and she had me hold on to my thighs as I gave that first push. I had wondered how I would know how to go about pushing, or be able to tell if I was doing it effectively, but it turned out my body had that one down pat. My uterus just started doing its thing and I added upper abdominal effort and joined in for the ride. A couple pushes was all my nurse needed to get that cervical lip out of my baby's way, and for the next push after that she had my husband help her create human leg-braces for me to provide better counter-pressure than I could to for myself in that position - kind of like a squat without worrying about balance (or the help of gravity, but I didn't know about that at the time). My husband appreciated getting to be this involved - there would be no shooing him out of the room.

My nurse must have called for back-up, because a couple pushes later my room was swarming with people. The bottom half of the bed disappeared, and someone set up the actual leg-braces. I had been envisioning stirrups, so these sturdy and padded appendages were a welcome support. My husband went back to holding my hand and whispering encouragements. It felt good to know that the end of the marathon was in sight. Time to sprint to the finish! After a few more pushes, my doctor arrived, seated herself between my legs and added her own encouragement - cheerleader style. I'd been familiar enough with her bouncy enthusiasm throughout my prenatal care, and it was fun to see it kicking into high gear. Its speed, however, didn't lend itself well to communicating what exactly she was about to do over on that end of the bed before she was actually doing it. My water was broken (a mere trickle, my husband observed), an internal fetal monitor was attached to my baby's head, an episiotomy was performed, and a vacuum extractor was engaged. All with me saying, "um, okay?" as the previously unwanted or unconsidered intervention was being performed. I was about to say no to the episiotomy, but I was so relieved to see scissors (I had pictured a scalpel knifing millimeters from my baby's crowing head) that I didn't object. After so many hours of labour, I just wanted that baby out already. Nurse Awesome leaned over to inform me that a neonatal specialist had been required due to that partial decel, and apologized that the only one available was a man. Given the number of people that had already milling around my exposed nether regions, I didn't really care about their genders anymore. Besides, anyone in his field of work would have seen it all before. The doctor in question stayed discreetly in the side-lines until after the birth, so it was hard to find his presence objectionable.

In the midst of all this bustle, I was still pushing, and pushing with all my might. My poor feet still clenched with every contraction, my husband and Nurse Awesome got furious hand-squeeze after hand-squeeze. Every muscle in my core dove for my pelvis, and my lips buzzed from the effort. I vaguely remember noting that I didn't want to scream (who had the energy?), but I did need to be reminded not to hold my breath. All that effort paid off quickly; a mere half hour from that first push, my doctor announced she could see the head. I must have been given some local anesthetic for the episiotomy, for I did not feel her crown. My husband ducked down for a look, and in another push, my baby was born. Another flurry of activity ensued, and my husband came back to whisper, "it's a girl!" My husband got to cut the cord, and then she was whisked away to a warming table to be checked by the aforementioned specialist. It was 10:27 on Monday, April 16th, ten days past my due date, and three days since that first hint of labour.

I have no memory of birthing the placenta, or getting stitched up post-episiotomy (no tears, though). All I could focus on was the distinct lack of baby in my arms. I don't remember being told the results of that neonatal examination, but she must have passed in flying colours, for after a few impossibly long minutes, the specialist left and she was finally in my arms. She was beautiful. Still is, in fact. She calmed down quickly and took to studying me as we cuddled, blinking ointment away from her big blue eyes. My husband took advantage of our room's courtesy phone and gave our parents and a few friends the good news, while my daughter and I gave breast-feeding a try. After all that hard work, she was hungry and took to it right away, eyes open all the time. I called my best friend to let her know about her new god-daughter, but otherwise stayed quiet, drinking in the perfection of ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. The room cleared out, the bed was reassembled, and the three of us were left to our devices for a while. My husband and I remembered our abandoned music bag and finally made use of the provided CD player. Nick Drake's "Five Leaves Left" proved the perfect fit in the aftermath of that marathon of a birth; a soothing calm after the storm. Lunch time must have rolled around, because someone wheeled in the most amazing burger. Rabid hunger can bring out flavour even in hospital food. Looking back, it amuses me to think that my labour was bracketed by burgers, but at the time all I could think of was how wonderful it was to be eating - and soon digesting! - my first real meal since Friday. Sweet, sweet calories.

I didn't quite clue into how exhausted I was until I got the shakes in the shower, nor how sore I was until we drove our girlie home in our sports sedan. It took two more sleepless nights before my daughter's first chiropractic visit relieved the pressure the vacuum extractor had placed on her poor little head. And it was nearly a week before the enormity of what we'd accomplished really sunk in. We had taken our newly-minted Sarah Brianna to Vespers on her first Saturday - absurdly soon, in retrospect, but my husband just wanted to do something normal, and I kind of wanted to show her off. I was sitting along the side of the sanctuary - my over-taxed muscles could handle singing or standing, but not both - with my little babe still asleep in her car seat beside me, perhaps soothed by the return of the sounds she'd heard daily not so long ago. I, too, was soothed by those sounds, those songs, those prayers, and I remembered how they'd sustained me in those long nights of labour such a short time past, yet on the other side of a great divide - that life before giving birth. It was as if returning here confirmed that it had all really happened to me, that I'd really done it. And thankfulness washed over me, for the strength given that was so greatly needed, for the trust that this body could what it was made to do, and the knowledge that it did indeed do just that, and brought us both safely through. It had been the hardest weekend of my life - I've never been so tired, never worked so hard, never been so elated to succeed. I'm tempted to divulge in more sports metaphors (extreme ones), which is odd for someone so nonathletic, but all fell short - just as much then as now. For no trophy can compare to receiving your first child.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

And so ends the trio of birth stories. The first indeed has been last (not that she's up to reading my blog just yet - gulp). My son's birth story can be found here. The story of my lost little one can be found here.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

For my son, in honour of his second birthday

On my son's first birthday, his father and I, along with his paternal grandparents, abandoned him with a sitter to go see the Tallis Scholars in concert. Seeing the U2 of renaissance polyphony in your own hometown (unless said hometown is in Britain) is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I felt a little guilty all the same. Upon post-concert reflection, however, I concluded that an evening of powerful, peaceful music was a highly appropriate celebration of such a beautiful birth, and it was really the only year we'd be able to get away with it. This year, he gets a visit from his auntie, a chocolate cake, and his own baby doll (so he'll stop stealing his sister's - and yes, I nabbed one wearing blue). And I'm celebrating his birth this year by sharing his birth story. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you may have already seen it, but I think it's a story worthy of a larger audience all the same. And yes, I know I'm incredibly biased. Happy birthday, little monkey!


My son was conceived just a few short months after midwifery got funding in Alberta. While my daughter's birth more than two years prior had pretty much put me off of hospitals, I was still not sure I was ready for a home birth, so I called up the Stony Plain Shared Care program (a now-defunct maternity care program run by a cooperative of doctors, nurses, and midwives aiming at natural, non-invasive births for low-risk moms) the morning after my positive pregnancy test, hoping for a homebirth on training wheels. Also, I knew that Westview, the hospital that headed the program had a birthing tub and by then I had heard wonderful things about waterbirths. Unfortunately, my uncharacteristic promptness did me no good: spots in the program were awarded by lottery, so I would have to wait until more expectant moms had called in before they would make their decisions. This made me very nervous - I really wanted a midwife, and, as funding had just gone through and midwives were scarce, I knew I needed to act fast. So I spent the rest of the morning looking up midwifery practices in Edmonton, leaving messages, and wondering if having a midwife at a "normal" hospital was really going to do the trick.

Meanwhile, my husband was reading birth stories out of the latest Birth Issues magazines. He was struck with one in particular which ended with mom and the new baby tucked in to their own bed. There had been no private rooms available at the hospital after my daughter's birth, so the proud but blitzed new daddy had had to go home alone while his newly-minted daughter and elated but exhausted wife (that would be me) stayed overnight in a semi-private room where neither of us actually slept. The idea of not having to go anywhere after the birth sounded really attractive. It didn't take too much to convince me that a home birth could work for us after all. We'd moved a year prior from the cramped four-plex that had made me dismiss the idea of a homebirth last time around to a comfortable bungalow, and our living room had just enough floor space to accommodate a birth pool. The idea of giving birth surrounded by our icons, houseplants, and candles was very appealing, not to mention easy access to the fridge, our stereo and our entire cd collection. On top of that, we were now just minutes away from the nearest hospital on the chance that anything went wrong.  I really didn't have any intention of heading there, but I thought it might be a comforting thought for any friends or family who might be troubled by our decision. Fortunately, one of the midwifery practices I called did have an opening; their office was in Spruce Grove, a bedroom community 30 minutes drive from home, but, as they did do homebirths in our end of the city, the care was well worth the extra gas.

Thirty-eight weeks later, I was so done with being pregnant. Since my eldest had been ten days "overdue", I was pretty much assuming I had another couple weeks to go, but having a homebirth meant being prepared at thirty-seven weeks, just in case. So here I was with a laundry basket full of homebirth supplies, my girlie's overnight bag half-packed in anticipation of sending her off to my in-laws' place once labour got under way, lists printed off with the locations of things that couldn't be out of use for potentially five weeks, and a home-made sign ready to be put in the snow bank in case our landlord didn't get around to fixing our house numbers on time. I was so ready to go, and all there was to do was...wait. And wait. And wait. And, oh yes, have copious amounts of Braxton Hicks contractions. Many an evening was spent with me wondering whether I should keep getting my daughter ready for bed, or if I should be packing her off to Grandma's. I got so frustrated with myself for not being able to tell whether or not I was in labour. My husband had to remind that since my daughter's birth was induced, I shouldn't really be surprised, but that didn't make the waiting any easier.

I'd been wanting a second baby since my first was six months old. So I wasn't just counting the eight-plus months of actual pregnancy, but all the months of dreaming and hoping, then hinting, then finally sitting my husband down and planning, then conceiving and almost immediately miscarrying, then three months of mourning, and finally six months of trying again before this baby was ever conceived. I felt like I'd been waiting pretty much forever. While I was still against having another pitocin-induction or having my membranes stripped, which had sent me into three days of sleepless latent labour before my daughter's birth, I started warming up to the idea of moving things along more naturally. My massage therapist was studying acupuncture at the time, so I took her up on her offer to try acupressure induction, then actual acupuncture. I also picked up a homeopathic birth-ease remedy from my midwives' office, drank gallons of red raspberry leaf tea, and walked miles around my neighbourhood. Still, the forty-week mark passed with nothing but more Braxton Hicks for my trouble.

Six days after my due date, I called up the midwife on call (yet again), to discuss my options. I was so tired of false alarms, I worried that I'd end up needing to be induced with pitocin again, which would mean giving up on our homebirth. The midwife told me that since I would be a week overdue, I could try doing a verbena and castor oil induction the next day - I would just have to come in to the Westview hospital in Stony Plain (the next town down the highway from Spruce Grove) for a non-stress test and make sure I was dialated far enough first. I agreed to book the test for the following morning, and the midwife commented that I didn't sound all that excited about having the baby the next day. I claimed to just be distracted - which I was, since my three-year-old was still in the middle of lunch - hung up the phone, and got to work rearranging our plans. It wasn't until I got my daughter down for her nap and lay down for one myself that I started to wonder why I wasn't excited. It dawned on me that I was still pining for the baby I lost, which warred with my desire for the baby that was actually on the way, since I mostly likely would not have had another one so soon had the first had survived the pregnancy. I wanted them both. I still do. So I had myself a good long cry, said goodbye to my lost little one once again, and then I felt ready to have my third baby.

My husband and I decided that getting out to Stony Plain for 10am the next morning would be much easier without having to work around our girlie's usual 9am wake-up, so we sent her off to Grandma & Grandpa's for the night and planned to turn in early ourselves. Before we did, we made one last effort at a love-made induction, and, sure enough, a couple hours later I was having the most regular contractions I'd had yet. So there we were, at one in the morning, snacking on sausage and inflating the birth pool, when my contractions slowed down yet again. They went from five minutes apart, to ten minutes, and we decided we'd better go back to bed. I kept timing my waning contractions for a couple hours, then awoke to find it was 7am and they'd stopped completely. It looked like we were headed out to Stony Plain that morning after all, but without the good night of sleep. At least the birth pool was up and ready to go.

The non-stress test went fine and it turned out I had dilated a couple centimeters, so the night's work may have yielded some progress, or maybe not. Either way my body was ready for action, and we were sent on our way with a vial of verbena essential oil, and some almond butter for the castor oil chaser. We picked up the castor oil and apricot nectar, the last ingredient of the home-induction cocktail, on the way out of town, stopped at McDonald's for one last pre-baby lunch, and headed home to take the stuff. The verbena tasted kind of like Pine Sol, but I knocked it back quick and set into my castor oil, almond butter, and apricot smoothie, which wasn't half bad. Around 1pm, we took our midwife's advice and went down for a nap while we waited for the verbena and castor oil to kick in.

We got up a few hours later after a blessedly contraction-free sleep on the assumption that I would have to take a second round of verbena et. all if nothing serious started up by 5pm. I was feeling somewhat crampy, but the five hour mark came and went, so we mixed up the second batch anyways. Things were picking up by the time it was all prepared, but I knocked back the verbena all the same and sipped on my castor oil cocktail between mild contractions. Memory's starting to fade, but it seems like no sooner was the last bit gone than my water broke; not with Hollywood splattering dramatics, but with enough of a flow that I was glad I was wearing a pad. It wasn't ten minutes before I was reminded what active labour felt like. We called our midwife's student with the update, and heard they'd soon be on their way.

For some reason, I was really concerned that my healthy-snacks-for-midwives get dealt with, so I had my husband running around chopping vegetables between helping me with contractions. The verbena cocktail came right back up, at which point I made the pleasant discovery that leaning over the toilet felt really good during contractions. When the midwife and her student got to our house, they found me in a similar position, against a chair this time, with my husband still busy in the kitchen.

We spent a pleasant couple hours in our own living room/dining room, chatting between contractions, giving my husband a chance to get to know at least a couple of the women who'd been involved in my prenatal care these last few months. After a while, the midwife suggested we check my cervix, and we discovered I'd made little progress in terms of centimeters. Thankfully, no one was overly concerned about that one. I went back to labouring in the dining room for a while, drinking or eating jello when I felt like it (the freedom!), and eventually the contractions got somewhat harder to deal with. Bending over the chair stopped working, so I switched to kneeling over the seat, vocalizing all the while. Suddenly I got very cold, so I put on a sweater, requested some tea, and hobbled back to our office and lay down under a blanket on our sofabed to wait for the water to boil.

My sofabed and I had gotten very well acquainted during my pregnancy. While we had bought it on the intention of having our office double as a guestroom, its deep seat and firm mattress had made it the ideal place to sit when our living room couch became too soft and un-supportive, and I'd spent many an hour napping there as well. It felt so natural to lie on my side with my back against its back as I had so often of late, and I guess I fell into "the zone". Someone had turned off the light, but I don't know when. My tea was left untouched, contractions came and went with the whispered mantra of "relax, relax", simple prayers for strength and mercy streamed through my mind, intercessions to the Theotokos and Mother Olga, patroness of labouring women and Jenny Flett of the Aleuts, repeated silently over and over. If someone came in, I tensed up, as if to prove "I'm still in labour, honest! See? Ow, ow, it hurts". But as soon as they left I relaxed again and contractions came and went almost without acknowledgment. My midwife, who had seen a much similar state when helping her own daughter with a birth, came and sat with me for a while, encouraging me quietly from across the room to keep doing what I was doing, and then left me alone.

I wasn't aware how long I lay there in the darkness, but my husband tells me it was only an hour and a half before my midwife came in to check me again. Low and behold, I'd dilated to 7.5cm! My husband told me later that the atmosphere went from "maybe we should take a nap" to "we need to fill that birthpool NOW!" Lying in silence was no longer an option as I shunted into transition. Water was heating on the stove in the largest pots we had to offer to supplement what was already coming from the hose via the kitchen faucet. The hot water tank held out, but they just couldn't get the pool filled fast enough to suit me. When I finally got the go ahead to enter the pool, I stripped and jumped right in. Modesty be damned, I was cold! The water was only up to my knees, so getting submerged in warmth wasn't an option yet, but my midwife's student got me a towel and bailed warm water onto my back as I hung off the side of the pool. At some point I had the presence of mind to ask my husband to fetch my bathing suit top, and the pool was filled up enough to do without the towel.

From the birth story that had originally introduced me to water-births, I had been left with the impression that being immersed would totally change the feeling of the contractions. Not so for me, but the buoyancy allowed me to use positions to help me deal with the building intensity that I had neither the strength or stability to attempt on land. My husband, sensing that someone needed to be in the pool with me and deducing that he was the only one with a bathing suit handy, changed and got right in. It wasn't something I'd thought to ask for, but I was so glad for his strength and support, and it allowed for a physical intimacy while I laboured that I wouldn't have wanted from anyone else.

By the time the backup midwife arrived, I think I was pushing. I was encouraged to breathe, to vocalize deeply rather than explore the high reaches of my register, but, surprisingly, no one was telling me to "PUSH PUSH PUSH". My baby's heartbeat was checked regularly with a Doppler as he descended, I was given a homeopathic remedy to help my tissues stretch, but, unlike my daughter's birth where my doctor had doubled as a cheerleader urging me to get that baby out ASAP, I was assured that I didn't need to push with all my might but, if I relaxed, my body would just do what it needed to do, slowly and gently, saving my baby's head and my perineum the trauma. This was probably the most dramatic difference between the two births. When I shared this observation with my midwife at a postnatal appointment, she assured me that we could have gotten the baby out in a hurry if we needed to, but he was doing fine, so why rush? I'm so thankful we didn't. After the hustle and bustle at the tail end of my daughter's birth, where the urge to push was met with the appearance of a dozen anonymous hospital workers, bright lights, and a tray of medical instruments, the peace and beauty of this stage of labour was breathtaking.

I was sitting in my husband's lap with my legs straddling the opposite side of the pool. Candles were flickering in the night, a couple dim lamps being the only other light in the room. The blinds were down. No one unknown appeared. My husband had put Avro Pärt's "Spiegel im Spiegel" on repeat (accidentally) sometime before entering the pool, and the soft arpeggios of the piano and smooth slow climbs by violin welcomed our son into the world outside the womb. Crowning seemed endless, but somehow enjoyable; a moment to savour, not a trial to endure. I was encouraged to feel his head a few times, and was confused by what met my fingers. I kept thinking, "How far out can my labia bulge before parting?" before realizing that was I was feeling wasn't me, it was just that the head was so squished up the middle that it didn't seem round. A mirror confirmed the cranial fold right down the middle of his fuzzy head.

After about thirty minutes, his head was born, followed quickly by his body, and no sooner was he all the way out than he was swooped into my arms. It was 11:34pm. I knew from the moment I first saw his face that we did indeed have a boy, as I suspected throughout my pregnancy, but I checked between his legs just to make sure before calling him by name: "well hello, Levi Nicholas". It was a wonder to be able to do that myself, to not have to wait through the endless minutes of APGAR scores and cord cutting to hold in my arms the child who had just left my body. And I got to keep holding him, while my husband cut the cord, while the placenta was born; he didn't leave my arms until it was time to get out of the tub. I tried nursing a bit, but he more interested in looking around with those big eyes of his, so eventually I relaxed and just took it all in.

Warm towels and dry clothing appeared. The shakes started sometime in there but I was soon in my own bed, munching on almonds and apple slices while my husband got to know his son and our midwives made the supper I'd planned out and left in the freezer. I'd thought pyrogies and farmer's sausages would hit the spot and boy was I right! Just like after my daughter's birth, that first meal was to die for. Hunger is the best spice after all, but it was satisfying to choose what I ate. The midwife's student came in and showed us the placenta, and my husband and I got to geek out over seeing it. The membranes were still around it - she showed us the hole where they ruptured and commented on the size the placenta. It was huge. No wonder Levi wasn't in any hurry to leave!

Levi's first bath, along with being weighed and measured, waited until I headed to the shower myself. The midwives cleaned up whatever mess had been made, covered the pool, checked me for tears (only a minor one), and made sure I could handle a trip to the bathroom before packing up and heading home around 2am. And there we were, just as we'd hoped: Mom, Dad, and baby tucked in our own bed, enjoying the afterglow of a beautiful birth together. Best day of my life.


The story of my lost little one can be found here. My eldest's birth story will be coming soon (ETA April 16).