Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Then There Was You

While I didn't have a webcam trained on me while I laboured, I took the opportunity to use social media as part of my labour. Mostly on my own between contractions (and with the help of my husband right at the end!) I tweeted my way through labour. I couldn't believe the tremendous reaction from the folks on twitter both in the weeks leading up to labour as well as the big day itself. Below I've posted my tweets (with their date and time stamps for a sense of the timeline) from the morning when we supposedly went in for our induction to the time of our discharge. I feel so blessed to have this Coles notes version of my labour for my fourth child. I will be able to show this to her some day and give her a sense of our anticipation and joy! Thank you to everyone who followed me and shared in our experience!

Leaving to make our way for the hospital! Thanks for all your well wishes! Will be praying for you all! #BabyWatch #zombiemoms
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-19 8:00 AM

Waters couldn't be broken bc of fetal position (too high). On the list for pitocin. Having contractions on my own. #BabyWatch #zombiemoms
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-19 2:02 PM

Out walking. Contractions 8min apart. 4cm dilated. Still no induction. In for a long night! #zombiemoms #Babywatch
Mobile Web • 11-08-19 4:04 PM

Been in assessment an hour and just for hooked up to monitors. Contractions 6-7min apart. Waiting to be checked. #zombiemoms #BabyWatch
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-19 5:50 PM

We're at 5cm but not having regular contractions. They've booked us into a hotel style room upstairs (1/2) #BabyWatch #zombiemoms
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-19 8:16 PM
No monitoring. No nurse. No drugs. They just want me in the hospital in case baby makes moves to escape quickly. #zombiemoms #BabyWatch
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-19 8:18 PM

@????? We're definitely getting there. I can't talk through the contractions. Big bonus!
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-19 10:24 PM

Doc at ultrasound predicts baby may be 9lbs12oz. Whatever! Not possible! Baby is gorgeous though! #zombiemoms #BabyWatch
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-19 10:54 PM

Off to get a few minutes rest. Thanks for all the love! Hope to be tweeting big news soon! #zombiemoms #BabyWatch
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-19 11:10 PM

Contractions slowed down to 9min apart but are waking me up. Very intense! Still labouring solo (with Hubby!)! #zombiemoms #BabyWatch
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-20 12:29 AM

It's 3am and I think I got 2 hours sleep. Labour keeps ramping up and petering off. When going labour is intense! #zombiemoms #BabyWatch
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-20 3:09 AM

Got a little more broken sleep. Just what I needed for the BIG push. Will be pacing like crazy after a quick bite. #zombiemoms #BabyWatch
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-20 7:04 AM

Got called in and admitted to the birth unit officially. Finally on our way!!! #BabyWatch #zombiemoms
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-20 7:46 AM

They broke my water!!!!! I'm already 6cm dilated. Here we go! #zombiemoms #BabyWatch
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-20 8:56 AM

8-9cm. Baby will be here soon #BabyWatch #zombiemoms
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-20 11:10 AM

Rebecca Catherine Claire P. 9lbs1oz born at 11:39am. Aug 20th, 2011. Beautiful in all ways! #zombiemoms #BabyWatch

The labour itself was intense after my water broke. I didn't get an epidural or pitocin (for the first time in four deliveries!) but I briefly sucked back some of the happy gas which took some of the edge off. The most helpful thing was the backrubs my Husband gave me as he whispered the Hail Mary in my ear. During transition I spent my contractions listening to him while focusing on the memory of my three older children all cuddling with me in our favourite recliner. I also offered up each contraction for many specific intentions. I was in labour for a full day so that was some beautiful prayer time! A peaceful inside while I was moaning lowly and sometimes yelling (purposefully I swear) through the height of the last few contractions. The attending doctor told me I had her out in 5 pushes. That's impressive as she had a stuck shoulder that they resolved by pushing on my abdomen while the doctor twisted her out manually with my legs tucked up so my knees touched my shoulders. I was so focused on getting her out I didn't notice any of those details. All I remember is that after my Husband announced her name, Rebecca!, and cut the cord they swept her away and I heard her first cry from the other end of the room. I looked up to her cry and saw the room was very full. The teams for shoulder dystocia and neo-natal ressucitation had both been called and I had the doctor and two nurses working on slowing down my bleeding. But for all that drama we were both fine. More than fine. Perfect. Our beautiful dark-haired girl, with a hint of auburn in the sun, stared up at me knowingly with her impossibly dark but still blue eyes when I held her at last. After a productive first feed I witnessed my joy again as my husband held her for the first time. After all our waiting and all the drama there she was so full of life and energy. Awake, out and ready to conquer us completely.

In Hebrew Rebecca means to tie or bind as with marriage. Her name suits in so many ways. She seemed bound to me endlessly during my exactly 42 weeks of pregnancy. Her cord was literally tied around her legs as she came out. Experiencing natural labour together brought another new kind of intimacy to our marriage too as I learned the depths of support and love my Husband has for myself and our children. And of course her joining our family has bound us together even more tightly. So thank you Rebecca. Thank you for joining us at last. Welcome home!


Being discharged from the hospital. Can't wait to be home holding all my babies and to be held by my wonderful husband. #zombiemoms
Twitter for iPhone • 11-08-21 3:26 PM

Monday, 15 August 2011

There's Something About Mary

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. It's our archdiocesan feast and a favourite of mine. I love the idea of Jesus up in Heaven still having His Mama on His mind. Rather than throwing a victory party He's making a throne for her. I think as we get older and become parents ourselves we look back and feel this way about our Moms. We start to see all of her sacrifices, quiet love and understand all the worry we've caused her through the years.

I feel an even greater connection to Mary now that I'm a mother too. After years of seeing her just as the young girl of the Nativity story, I can't help but wonder about those untold years of late night feeds, toddler years and so on. A friend of mine, quite rightly, was talking about how Jesus must have been as a child. He's God, so I had always thought He'd be preaching practically from the manger. But that doesn't make sense because He was always wholly human. My lovely friend said so insightfully that Jesus would be perfectly human for each age. He would have experienced teething same as my kids, learned how to walk, hit all those milestones. There would be something special about Him, but He would still have to learn and explore just like any child. I don't imagine Mary got to stoically sit by while Jesus was doing all his growing. I bet she was chasing Him as He played, wiping up the food He threw on the floor and being just as tired as I am most days.

I suppose that's why, now that I'm a mother, I find Our Lady of Sorrows so appealing. Here is a mother, not so unlike me. She's given birth and spent over 30 years doing what all mothers do: Loving, worrying, and praying for her Son. The difference is she had the sad blessing of knowing that her Son, her precious baby, was meant to die for the salvation of all. Most of us live with the niggling fear that something might happen to our children, but she knew. That's why when I read a verse about how Mary watched and remembered the things her Son did I can understand. When my kids are sick I watch their every move and try to soak in every detail. Imagine how sorrowful life would be if you knew something incomprehensibly tragic was going to happen to your precious child because of others (oh happy fault that won for us so great a Saviour!). I remember the day I spent in the hospital with my son, crouched over his weak body as they conducted tests to see if he is diabetic. Through no fault of his own my baby was pale and sickly with tubes in his arm as he patiently endured all their tests. In that moment my 2 year old son and I clutched his rosary like a life preserver. I don't think I prayed that old comforting prayer. My thoughts were a jumble of pleas and devotion, all while I tried to put on a brave face. I sat there watching him, trying to imprint every detail of his beautifully trusting face on my brain as he turned pale. I couldn't cry the tears threatening to explode out of me. Because that's what we parents do. We put on a brave face so our children aren't afraid even when the monsters in the closet are real. Luckily everything turned out and for now my boy is fine. For all those mothers of children with chronic or terminal illness I sit in awe of your strength and endless well of love.

Knowing what she knew, Mary must have spent every day since Simeon prophesied to her the death of her son masking her pierced heart with a calm exterior characteristic of the grace God had poured to overflowing on her. With her perfect Son to care for she was the perfect mother. She experienced in a unique but universal way the joys and sorrows of motherhood. She experienced the brutal death of her only child, watched it at every step and felt it in the depths of her heart and soul as only a parent can. Today we celebrate the great act of love shown to her by her Son. When her earthly mission was done and she was ready, God lifted her up body and soul, sparing her the pain of her own death. This was God's blessing to her and to us. Now in Heaven Mary continues in her position of Mother, but now Mother of All. She still watches her children with sorrow in all our sufferings as she pleads on our behalf to her Son.

How lucky we are as mothers to have so great an example and advocate!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

How We Do It

Ever since we found out we were pregnant with our 3rd child we've had friends, family and strangers asking how we do it. It, I assume, is how are we not spending all day crying while living in a small cardboard box eating sunflowers for every meal. Or something less dramatic. For some people it is a financial question, for others a time management issue, for others it's a question of how we propose (and I'd like to think manage) to raise relatively well adjusted children. My rote answer has become "By the grace of God". And I really do mean it. There have been times that I've been ready to pack up my meagre, chewed, drooled on, or broken possessions to book into the local looney bin until the youngest is at school. In those times when I most want to give up and give in something happens to lift me back up.

This year has been a great example through and through. We've made some amazing new friends, been given the gift of slowly taking over my parents' mortgage, and my husband got a new job which fulfills his need for creativity, perseverance and respect. Nothing is ever perfect (try moving while hugely pregnant!) but everything is always beyond my hopes and dreams. Just yesterday I was lamenting (okay, okay, complaining obnoxiously) that I didn't want to cook because I was tired and couldn't think of a thing to make. In waltzed our new friends who sneakily dropped off a delicious casserole on our doorstep while we were resting. I could have cried. Alright, I did because I was so overwhelmed and touched. Bonus: The kids loved it. They ate pretty much every bite and laughed through the meal. If that's not the grace of God I don't know what is!

I have also been blessed with a husband who will work himself ragged all day (even working overtime to bring in a little more money when he can), come home and be super Daddy for hours and who has stood by me through 5 years of marriage that has seen 4 babies, 6 moves, 3 vehicles, ample poor health, and more love than I would have hoped for in 50 years. I have not been a perfect wife, but I know that regardless of how crazy life gets we keep clinging to each other and saying our prayers of thanks for all of it. 3 kids and one due any day has made our lives busy. Beyond busy. Yet I wouldn't change a thing. He knows as well if not better than I do most days how lucky we are. We have never suffered a loss of a child, never wanted for food, and have never been homeless. He has no problem telling me that it's not because of our hard work, although that helps. We have been blessed by God with people who will catch us no matter how crazy our leap of faith. We also have each other which makes even the leanest times seem full of riches.

When people imply we got ourselves into this mess by not spacing our children I can't help but wonder how different our life would be. Which child would we space out? Our daughter who single-handedly calmed the one year old by singing "Hey Jude" to him? Our oldest boy who loves to sneak up on me just to give me a hug and say "I love you"? Our one year-old boy who has the biggest, silliest smile you've ever seen? Or maybe this un-named, un-seen baby, all limbs moving right now, who we've been waiting (impatiently!) to meet for over 9 months? All I see when I try to imagine how different my life would be is a series of aching gaps where love given and most of all received should be.

So, if you really want to know how we do it, I can show your our budget, tell you about our routine, our values, and all the support we have all around us. All of that would be true and I'm forever grateful that life is working out for our good. I will also always say "by the grace of God" because without that support nothing else would matter.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Eviction Notice

Dear Baby,

I am writing this letter in order to inform you that your lease is up. When you first took up your tenancy we agreed upon a 9 month lease with no option to renew. I feel I have been more than lenient in allowing you a few days grace period to pack your things and make a graceful exit. You gave me the false impression a few weeks ago that you were prepared to find a new situation but as of yet I see no additional effort to clear out.

Let me be clear: I have enjoyed having you as a resident these 9 months, although you had little respect for the utilities and have tended to engage in late night parties with your crony placenta. All in all it has been a real delight sharing this unit with you. That being said, I feel that you have outgrown the space allotted to you and as I currently have no additional space not already in use it would be beneficial for you to seek another place to lay your head.

Speaking of which, I recently had the great pleasure of touring a new spot that would be perfect for you. It has a much better view, is much larger and best of all doesn't have the issues with humidity so characteristic of your current situation. If you'd like to interview previous tenants they're all prepared to give the most glowing reviews. They each stayed for at least a year before upgrading to a larger premises.

As for the former tenants, they would also be happy to welcome you and help you settle in. We have a professional hired for your exit from this unit. Don't worry, she's excellent and can come regardless the time of day. Once she's helped with your move-out the other tenants as well as my co-landlord, you can call him Daddy, will do all we can to help you adjust to your new home.

So have no fear, this eviction isn't an end, it's a beginning. I will remind you, however, that if you don't see fit to prepare quickly to leave we will have to consider other options and possibly involve some professional help. Please be advised it would be better for all of us if we could do this thing quietly, quickly, and with minimal fuss.

All the best,

The Landlord

Friday, 5 August 2011

My Dream Job

I have this idea. You may think I'm crazy but I hope some day I can make it happen. It's about my dream job. I want to buy a huge house on a sprawling piece of land. It would have to be close enough to the city we could get to all the amenities, but far enough we wouldn't be surrounded by the buzz of other people's busy days. 

Now before you start joking that I just want to fill said country estate up with 100s of babies (wait a minute... You might be on to something!) I have a different plan. Yes, it will involve lots of babies. And Moms. And Dads. And some quiet time. Some anyway.

My dream job is a little granola, but I think there's something to it for all of us families! I want to, with the help of my wonderful husband, use that dream house to run a retreat center just for families and young couples. A place to get away from life for a little while. Lots of good (or passable) home cooking, places to walk for private time, and a 24 hour playdate for the kids. Nothing fancy would be going on in our house. We'd have a big glorious garden to grow as much of our food as we could and we'd also only bring in local meat products for our meals. Good healthy stuff. Clothesline in the summer and a cozy fire in the winter.

Knowing our religious background we would offer little prayer sessions to remind ourselves where we get our strength to be families. With a little music and some heartfelt prayers we could just chat about our challenges and victories. A retreat for the body, soul, and self.

I think a place like that could do us all a world of good without having to give up our family to get there. Fellowship, simple living and time away from our obligations to remind ourselves why we run ourselves ragged and to show our kids how much we value our family.

Some day if it's meant to be I know my husband and I will make it happen!

I Knew She Was a Girl

I knew before I was married or even pregnant that my first child would be a girl. I knew her face. I knew her joy and her smile.

When I was still a nun I had an experience which to this day still leaves my faithful soul in awe. One Saturday afternoon, after our formation classes as a community, we were all just hanging out at the Sisters' convent house out in a small harbour town. Out of nowhere two very dear friends of mine dropped in with their daughter. In retrospect she must have been 7 or 8 months by her size and the confidant crawl she had going. Their small family left me with a feeling of joy but when they left I felt a sudden deep feeling of longing. It was as though for the first time I realized I would never be a mother so long as I stayed with the nuns. I'd always believed I was fine with that. In my mind I had decided I would be like a spiritual mother, praying for all the lost souls and my students when I eventually become a teacher. Cuddling with that little baby girl had opened up a wound in my heart I had never realized was there. 

When my friends left it was time for Adoration in our small chapel. We had the whole community with us that day so I ended up sitting on the radiator while trying to muster myself to pray. I remember how uncomfortable I was and how distracted I felt by my realization that I would never be a mother. After about 20 minutes of this I was about to leave the room to get some air when all of a sudden a wave of peace washed over me. As I looked up at the Blessed Sacrament a strange vision came before my eyes. I saw clearly an image of a woman sitting with a child in her lap. Not just a child, a little girl with reddish hair that had a cute curl around the fringe, big blue eyes and the most joyful smile I'd ever seen. The woman was me. I was wearing nondescript clothes but it wasn't my religious habit. I was sitting with this painfully beautiful child in my arms with a look of perfect joy. She and I were rocking in this very particular Boston rocker. The stain, the shape everything stuck in my memory as though it was essential to the scene. As I looked closer I noticed a man's hand on my shoulder in this vision. My mind travelled up and in the vision I saw a very familiar face. With a flush the vision fell away and I found myself weeping in our tiny chapel, my hands clutching the uncomfortable radiator. I ended up leaving the room to have a quiet moment in one of our side rooms, shaken by my vision of a life that I still felt I could never have. 

Was this a calling or a gift of realization of what motherhood could have been had I been led along another path? I couldn't allow myself to see the vision as cruel even as I tied my rope around my grey habit the next morning, counting the three knots symbolizing poverty, chastity and obedience. All good things deserve sacrifice and I knew religious life included the sacrifice of physical motherhood. I still couldn't help being haunted by the clear vision given to me, though I pushed it aside as I struggled on in this beautifully difficult community life.

Flash forward more than a year later. I'd left religious life not long after that day in the chapel and was married less than a year later. Two days after Christmas I was in my in-laws bathroom staring at this strange scientific creation with its code of colours and lines. Two lines to be exact. I let out a choked laugh and then ran across the hall with the tiny stick tucked behind my back. Pregnant. We were pregnant. I was pregnant. The girl who thought she'd never be a mother. A beautiful joke on me by a God who always has a better plan. O was convinced right away that this new life (that made me very nauseous) was a girl. Everyone found my conviction laughable except my husband.

Fast forward to our 3rd Christmas as a married couple. In my lap sits a buoyant and joyful little girl with pretty strawberry-blonde hair, smiling in the glow of her loving extended family. Behind me stands my husband with his hand on my shoulder. We're sitting in a particularly beautiful Boston rocker. It had been a gift by my father-in-law to his wife when she was pregnant with their first child, my brother-in-law, on the occasion of her first mother's day just before they became parents. I can't help but smile as I know this moment was mine before I knew the truth of it. This day was planned for me before I believed in any of the details. Every detail down to whose hand was on my shoulder was exactly right. I knew in that moment how good it was to really trust, to really give in to a plan greater than my own.

And that's how I knew my first child was a girl before I was even pregnant.