I’m so lucky…

My family doctor works out of a clinic adjacent to the Children’s Hospital. We actually have to go through the hospital to get to the clinic. And every time I go, it makes me sad.

There are children in wheelchairs, babies with IV drips, toddlers who can’t toddle. There is the ominous sign on one of the washroom: “Adolescent Change Table” (shudder)! All of this reminds me of how very lucky I am to have a – so far (cross your fingers, knock on wood) – healthy family.

While I go with my baby for her first immunizations, in the NICU some parents cry by their premature babies wondering if they will live through the night. While I take my son to check that he’s healthy and growing properly, in the cancer wards other parents sit next to their children wondering how many more days they have with them before they are taken away for good. While I wipe runny noses, other parents wipe tears down their faces as they receive bad news from their doctors.

As Christmas is approaching, I have a thought for all these parents who have lost the most precious thing of all – what makes them parents. I hope I’ll remain as lucky and I hope you all are, too!

My laughing baby….

The first laughter is a milestone I remember clearly from when my son was just a wee lad. I was alone with him the first time he laughed. He was reclining in the little baby chair we have and I was dancing to try and keep him entertained at the end of a long day, when he would usually get cranky. He laughed for the first time. When Zak came home from work and I told him, he was skeptical at first, but our son did it again for him. From that day on, it seems like my goal in life was to make my son laugh just to hear that sound one more time. I loved it! I guess it marked the beginning of more interaction. He wasn’t just a blob anymore: he had a sense of humor!

Now my daughter is laughing too… She actually started more than a week ago, when she was only 10 weeks old. According to our baby book, she started around the exact same day of the year as her big brother – but she was born 4 weeks later in the year. So yeah, she’s 4 weeks earlier than her brother – and a whole month is a lot when you’re only 2 1/2 months old! But don’t tell him, he wouldn’t like to know. This time, it’s Zak who heard the laughter first while I was not around. And I had trouble believing him until I heard her. And it makes me just as happy and giggly as it did when my son first laughed.

Laughter must be a trick invented by nature to make sure humans take good care of their young. I bet it triggers something in our brain that’s addictive so we try to reproduce it all the time. Now, I wish we could film it, but our camera is broken and went back to Olympus for repair. If they ship it back this week as promised, maybe I’ll be able to record a laughing baby for Christmas!

Réalisation tardive

Ça vous est déjà arrivé de relire un livre, de réentendre une chanson et de tout à coup comprendre des paroles que vous n’aviez jamais vraiment comprises? Un jeu de mot qui vous avait échappé? Et vous vous dites “Ben voyons, c’est évident!” Comme quand vous relisez Iznogood et que vous comprenez enfin ce que signifie son nom…

Je viens d’avoir une de ces réalisations. Vous avez déjà joué à la ringuette? Vous savez, ce sport qui se joue comme le hockey, mais avec un anneau de caoutchouc au lieu d’une rondelle? Moi non plus. Mais je pensais à ce sport ce matin (j’ai déjà oublié pourquoi), et étant en milieu anglophone, j’imaginais, en anglais, une conversation avec quelqu’un d’autre à ce sujet. Oui, j’ai souvent des conversations dans ma tête, pas vous?

C’est à ce moment-là que j’ai eu mon éclair de lucidité. La ringuette se joue avec un anneau. En anglais, “ring”. Eh oui, ça explique tout, non? C’est pour ça que ça s’appelle la ringuette. Mais quand on en parle seulement en français… Allez, dites-moi que je ne suis pas la seule qui n’avait pas encore compris!

My daughter’s birth’s story

Not long after my son was born, I decided to post my memories of her birth so that it would stay in cyberspace forever… and also in order to give mothers-to-be out there some hope. I remember, when I was pregnant, finding tons of horror birth stories, but very little stories of births gone right. So here is my second story of an “easy” delivery (anyone who has given birth knows that there is no such thing as an easy delivery, but mine seemed to be much easier than most others).

The night before my daughter was born, I felt some contractions. It must have been 11 pm, I was in bed, and it kept me awake for about an hour. It wasn’t really painful, but it was constant enough that I thought it was the real thing. After about an hour, I got up to go to the washroom, wondering if I should maybe have a shower to see if it would either speed things up or calm them down. But before I made a decision, the contractions stopped.

In the morning, the contractions came back around 7 am. I was not sure what to do because I didn’t want to wait for too long, but on the other hand the experience of the night before made me weary of crying wolf. At about 8 am I called the midwife. The midwife on call was not one of my favorites ones, so when she said that she was busy at the hospital and I could either go see her to get assessed, or she could call another midwife who would do a home visit, I jumped on the occasion of a home visit by a midwife I liked better. Unfortunately, she called back a few minutes later saying that the other midwife was also busy so I should go to the hospital. Which is, I have to say, 2 blocks away from home. So we phone our neighbor, asked him to take care of our son while we went to the hospital, and slowly got ready.

But my contractions stopped. I was wondering if I should go to the hospital or not, but by that point since we were all set up to go we figured we might as well. The assessment would tell us if anything had progressed, and we could discuss the next step as there was talk of using castor oil to induce labor but I was weary of that. I was 9 days late and really hoped to avoid chemical induction. We took the elevator down to meet our neighbor with our son, and the contractions started again while we were chatting with him. It was about 9:30. So we figured it was a good thing we decided to go to the hospital anyway. We walked there, not taking our hospital bag because we were not sure we would be staying. I do get a kick out of the fact that I walked to the hospital while in labor! But the contractions were pretty spaced out, not very painful, and it did take only 10 minutes.

We stayed in the waiting room at the hospital for a while because the maternity ward was really busy that morning. My contractions were about 6 minutes apart and not very painful. Finally, around 10:30, we were given a room, although we were told we might not be able to stay depending on the state of my labor. The midwife came and assessed me at 10:45. I was 6 cm dilated, so given my previous experience (going from 5 cm dilated to ready to push in less than an hour), the midwife decided she was going to keep me at the hospital. We were able to stay in that room, but the labor did not progress like my first one. We spent most of the day with me roaming around the room with spaced out contractions. We chatted with our labor nurse, whose son happens to be in the same preschool class as our sin (!!!). When contractions became stronger I had a bath, which was nice, but inaction was killing me so after a while I got out and put on a gown.

Our midwife had to call for some reinforcement as she was already helping another woman who was not quite as lucky as I was. She ended up having a C-section, but not before laboring all day. Anyway, I digress. The other midwife that showed up is one that I really liked and trusted, so that was nice. The first midwife asked me several times if I wanted her to break my waters, which would have helped labor progress. But I was still doing good, the baby was fine and I was confident it wouldn’t take too much longer, so I wanted to let nature follow its course. The second midwife who showed up never offered once (she has more of a letting-nature-follow-its-course kind of mentality, I guess).

Around 2 pm, I would say, things started to be much more painful. Contractions were closer together and I could not stand up anymore. I ended up on all fours on the hospital bed, and that part wasn’t fun. I never had contractions that painful during my first labor, and I understand how women who do that for hours end up needing an epidural! Luckily, Zak and the midwife were there, trying to make me feel better. After what seemed like forever, my waters broke; it was about 4 pm. There was some meconium (baby poop) in the amniotic fluid, so the midwife warned us that if there was any doubt as to the state of the baby’s lungs when born, we would have to see the pediatrician (inhaling poop form the fluid is apparently bad for them, for some reason). I was almost completely dilated and felt like I had to push, and the midwife told me it was ok to start pushing. From that point on, it went really fast. The midwife says I never really pushed: the baby just came out. In fact, I swear there were a few pushes, and it was extremely painful, but it lasted about 15 minutes and then it was over. The baby was delivered (screaming, which proved her lungs were just fine) and they try put her on me.

The umbilical cord was really short, so they couldn’t put her very high and I was trying to see if it was a boy or a girl, but it was awkward. Finally, I saw that it was a girl and I have to say I was quite surprised. We kind of expected another boy. But this one definitely had a vagina! Zak helped the midwife cut the umbilical cord, and they put her on my chest where she immediately latched on to my breast. She could already lift her head while on my tummy. It really felt like she was “older” than my first born, as if the extra 13 days she spent in the womb had prepared her better for the outside world. But she was the same weight as her brother (only 25 grams lighter). And of course, she was perfect.

Our neighbors came by with our son, then they went and brought us some sushi which we had together, all 4 of us now, in the hospital room. Then our boy went back to our neighbor’s house while we were waiting to get the ok to go home. Thanks to the midwife, we were able to leave the hospital at 7:30 pm, about 3 hours after birth. I took a taxi home with instructions from the midwife not to walk for a week. Zak walked home with the baby in a wrap. When the nurses saw us leave, one of them asked “Are they allowed to leave like that?” because normally, people leave in a car and they check the baby in the car seat before allowing the parents to take them home. They want to make sure the car seat is appropriate and the baby is well buckled in it. But we were allowed to walk home. It was a nice evening. We went home, picked up our son at the neighbors, put him to bed and then went to bed ourselves.

And that’s how my daughter came to be. A very different labor than my son, when I barely had painful contractions before the waters broke but then pushed for 45 extremely painful minutes. But both births were easy and fast (7 1/2 hours total), and I recovered extremely quickly from both. Especially the second time, since I was able to sleep quietly in my bed without being woken up by nurses every couple hours. People say I was made to bear children. I say, that’s enough. I wouldn’t want to do it again. And besides, I have a great family as it is. 2 is enough.

All things considered…

All things considered, we have a pretty good baby!

People around us seem to think that she’s very sensitive. Sure, she’ll scream as soon as her diaper is wet. And she does turn into a fury when she has been awake for more than an hour, at which point we have to swaddle her and walk her around for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half before she falls asleep. True, sometimes that sleep lasts for only 10 minutes, at which point she feels revived until she starts screaming again.

But for the last five nights, she has slept for 6 hours in a row twice and 7 hours in a row twice. So although we do have trouble putting her down for naps, which means we have very little time to ourselves, and although she definitely does her share of crying very loudly in our ears, I wouldn’t trade it for a baby that is easy during the day but won’t go down at night.

All that said, I know very well that the way she sleeps today means absolutely nothing in terms of how she’ll sleep tomorrow. So we’ll just have to wait and see!

I need a dishwasher!

We used to have a small, countertop dishwasher. Not very big, but it fit most of our plates, all of our cutlery and most of our glasses, which are annoying to wash. Now it has leaked twice in the last week, so we have given up hope. It is on the deck awaiting recycling heaven. But we cannot live without a dishwasher. And we don’t really want to buy a new countertop one, because they cost $250, are noisy, take a very long time to wash your dishes, and we want to get a real dishwasher when we finally move to a bigger apartment (we are now next on the list). So we were wondering if we should just wait until we move. But that could still take months. And we really miss our dishwasher.

So we have decided to buy a real one. The kitchen is set up for it, we “just” need to remove a cabinet from the kitchen and store it somewhere else so it can be put back when we move out and take our dishwasher with us. Which also means we had to find room for the jars that were in that cabinet. They’re now in the pantry on the shelf where we previously had our linen. Makes sense, you’ll say, to have all the food together. But the linen… well, that’s more complicated. Right now, it’s on the couch awaiting a redistribution of our clutter. Have I mentioned we need a bigger apartment?

Now all that’s left (well, apart from drilling a hole between the sink compartment and the dishwasher compartment of the cabinet, but drilling holes is nothing but fun, isn’t it) is to pick a dishwasher. We want something relatively quiet because we have a small place (did I mention that already?). We are leaning toward Kenmore so far, but even then, they make like 200 different models.

Anyone have good or bad stories about dishwasher that could be useful?

Roots of Empathy… again!

I participated in the Roots of Empathy program with our son. If you have never heard of the program, check it out! There was even a neat article in the New York Times about the program last week. I truly enjoyed my participation and I believe in the effectiveness of the program, so I was hoping I could do it again this time around. But I thought it might be hard since the babies have to be 2 months old at the beginning of the program, and I expected it to start near the beginning of the school year… which is when my daughter was born. Several months ago, I contacted the people I had worked with the first time, within the French school system, but the instructors from the three French schools I could reasonably make it to were either not doing the program this year or had found another baby. So I was disappointed but resigned myself to not doing the program with my daughter.

Then I had an idea (I know, it took me a while to think about it, but blame it on baby brain!): I checked the BC contact for Roots of Empathy on their Website and blindly sent an email saying I lived in Vancouver and was available to do the program if anyone still needed a baby. I stressed the fact that I had experience, feeling like I had to make myself look good so I would be chosen… I clicked “send” and my plea went into in cyberspace. Nobody acknowledged reception of my email and never heard back, so I figured it was too little, too late. Then last week I suddenly received a phone call from a lady who was looking for a baby to do the program with. She came to visit today, and we are set to start next week!

I am really excited at the prospect. The class is grades 5-6, so it will probably be a lot more interesting than when I did it the first time with kids in grade 1. They should be a bit less unruly and have a much better understanding. I wish I could have done it in French again, but, well, you can’t have it all. And it’s a bit far from home, but it’s definitely doable. I even got another phone call last week from the Vancouver School Board: they were doing an instructors’ training for the program and needed a baby to do a mock class visit with the trainees. The person scheduled to come in had canceled and they were in a pickle. Could I go – now? I did, and I really enjoyed it, despite the fact that my daughter was cranky and we had to cut the visit short when she wouldn’t stop crying.

I hope not all visits will end that way, but if they do, so be it. It’s part of the program too. Kids will learn that some babies feel really uncomfortable in unfamiliar situations, and it will help them develop their empathy even more! The truth is, I like spending time in class and seeing the joy on the kids’ faces when they see the baby arrive or reach a new developmental milestone. I enjoy the presents they give the baby, usually things that they made themselves and required lots of thought and reflection from them. But most of all, I love having the feeling that I am helping to make a difference in our society. It’s not much – I will be reaching what, two dozen kids? – but it’s better than nothing. It’s two dozen kids who will learn through my daughter how you are supposed to treat other human beings. They will reflect upon what we all need to grow happy and healthy, and they will learn to apply this knowledge in their everyday interactions. And along the way, they are much less likely to become bullies.

By the way, I was told when I visited the school board last week that the program had lost its funding in BC. So if you have a lot of cash on your hands and don’t know what to do with it, you can always decide it’s a good cause!